“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.”
“Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops.”
“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
“He who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.”
“He who receives you, receives Me.”
As I reflect on the second half of Matthew 10, both yesterday’s lesson and today’s, I see several important truths converging, truths represented in the verses I quoted above. Here’s what I see:
- Jesus sends us out to do what He did and preach what He preached. We are His representatives here on earth.
- We will face opposition if we do what He did and preach what He preached. This is because we are truly united to Him and participate in Him.
- If we are not willing to bear what He bore and take up our cross and follow Him in all things, we’re not worthy of Him.
I talked yesterday about some of the things that will motivate us to follow Jesus and obey Him. In a strange way, I find the cost of the cross highly motivating. But it isn’t for the sake of suffering or misery by itself that I’m motivated: it’s that I’ve come to realize that there is no Christ without a Cross. There’s no way around it: no Cross, no Christ.
But rather than wail and moan over the coming persecution and suffering, I welcome the Cross of Christ when it comes into my life: it’s one of the ways I know I’m a Christian, one willing to pick up his cross and follow Jesus. Why? Because to my own personal cross is attached Jesus and His Cross, which is none other than the way of life.
I’m not too crazy about the suffering part of the Cross: I’d just as soon have Jesus without it. But I know that to be united to the one who bore my sins and the painful penalty for them I must participate in that painful redemption which is the Cross. I also know that with the Cross comes the Resurrection, and with my every cross comes my own resurrection, sometimes even in this life.
What motivates me about the Cross is that it is the point at which God and I meet every day.
You all remember how Jesus Christ carried His cross. His Cross wasn’t just His Cross: it was yours and mine. He carried your Cross for you when you couldn’t carry it. And now He’s asking you to carry His cross. And this is the Cross of Jesus that He has asked you to carry: that you, His disciple, become like Him, the Master. That as He died for you, so you die to yourself for Him; that as He gave up His life for you, so you give up your life – every bit of it – for Him; and that as He faithfully confessed you before His Father, so you would faithfully preach Him from the housetops.
We are called to be Simon of Cyrenes, only we’re not forced to carry a cross by the Romans: we’ve been asked by the Master to carry His Cross.
Prophets often have strange visions. Well, I’ve had one. Oh, it wasn’t a vision like Ezekiel’s of strange spinning wheels and creatures with multiple heads and wings.
My vision is this: that when I say we are to carry the Cross of Christ, I’m not just saying that we should carry His Cross, as if it’s simply a physical object outside of Him or us . . . . I’m saying that we are to carry Jesus Christ Himself, and that He is our Cross. I see a picture, not of me carrying the Old Rugged Cross, just a rough piece of wood, from which I might imagine I get a few splinters.
We are Christophers – “Christ-bearers.” This is what it means to be a “Christian” – to be a bearer of Jesus Christ, who is our Cross to bear.
If we do this, we will be persecuted to some degree, and we will suffer. When we boldly proclaim Jesus Christ, some people will come after us. St. Lewis said the following about bearing Jesus Christ in Mere Christianity:
“He works on us in all sorts of ways. But above all, He works on us through each other. Men are mirrors, or ‘carriers’ of Christ to other men. But usually it is those who know Him that bring Him to others. That is why the Church, the whole body of Christians showing Him to one another, is so important . . . . The Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose. It is even doubtful, you know, whether the whole universe was created for any other purpose.”
But praise God He does not ask you to answer this call alone. All of the pronouns in this passage of Matthew referring to the radical call to discipleship – are in the plural – not the singular. You (plural) are being sent out among wolves and you (plural) are to preach Jesus from the housetops. Jesus didn’t just send you to preach from the housetops: He sent His army, the Church.
And so we carry the Cross of Christ together, as His Body, filling up in our flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His Body, which is the church, of which we became ministers according to the stewardship from God which was given to us, to fulfill the Word of God, the mystery which has been hidden from the ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints!
Hear what Jesus our Master says to us this morning: “He who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. I am your Cross to bear, and through me you will carry my life of salvation and blessing to everyone you meet. And if you confess me before men, I will surely confess you before My Father in heaven.”
Prayer: Lord Jesus, who willingly bore my cross for me, help me to hear Your command today to carry Your Cross for you. By Your grace, enable me to have the strength to accept and pick up whatever it is today that You have sovereignly prepared for me to bear. Remind me that in so doing I am bearing not only my cross but also Yours. May I see You and be with You through this daily cross, which I gladly pick up today for You. Amen.
Points for Meditation:
- How can you take up your cross today so that you may follow Jesus?
- What price might you have to pay for faithfully preaching Jesus Christ, that is, proclaiming Him through every part of your life?
- How might you be a Christ-bearer today?
Resolution: I resolve to find one way today to be a bearer of Christ and His Cross.
© 2014 Fr. Charles Erlandson