"So they took Jesus and led Him away. Carrying the cross by Himself, Jesus went to the place called Skull Hill (in Hebrew Golgotha). There they crucified Him. John 19:16-17...."A man named Simon, who was Cyrene, was coming from the country just then, and they forced him to carry Jesus' cross." Mark 15:21...."The cross is there, right from the beginning, we have only got to pick it up.....Jesus says that all Christians have their own crosses waiting for them...destined and appointed by God. Each of us must endure our allotted share of suffering and rejection. But each of us has a different share....But it is the one and the same cross in every case." Dietrich Bonhoeffer
We're in the midst of another Easter week, and the cross will once again have a prominent place in the midst of it. For a week. Then it will once again recede into the background for the other 51 weeks.....I remember once as a child getting a chocolate cross in my Easter basket. It was solid chocolate, which every kid wants to get. I never thought a thing about it other than the joy of consuming it. I loved its benefits. That same kind of thinking has seeped into every part of the church today. We love the benefits of the cross. We're thankful that Jesus carried and died upon one for us. We take little if any thought about carrying and dying upon our own. If we do think of bearing a cross, we equate it with the daily struggles of life. Struggles that all, believers or not, grapple with. Such is not the cross of Christ. To carry and bear His cross means we enter into His suffering, His shame, and His rejection. This is not a lifestyle that is much preached upon, and is lived out even less. Bonhoeffer says that every believer has a cross "destined and appointed" for them by the Father. So few of us ever take it up. Like Simon, we have to be forced to take it up.....Except that the Father forces no one. Jesus commands us to pick up our cross and follow Him. It's our choice whether we do or not. Most often, it seems that, as pointed out in John, He carries it alone.
I keep thinking of that chocolate cross in my Easter basket. It wasn't the only "goodie" in it, and I looked forward to consuming them all. I think that's how so many of us view the life of faith. We believe on Him to provide lots of "goodies," blessings, for us to consume. My childhood basket eventually became empty. For the believer today, at least here in the west, the "basket" never gets empty. He's always filling it up with good things. We expect some problems, but He'll keep them at a manageable level. Abundant life is all about what can be measured, counted, and accumulated. Suffering may come upon us, but we expect Him to keep those times of short duration, and at a minimum of occurrence.....I once saw a church sign that advertised all that they offered. It summed it all up with "Just good stuff." That's what He provides us. A never ending basket of good stuff. Rejection and reproach as we bear His name and His cross have no place there. His cross is a monument we dust off each year and then put back in the cupboard. We never really think its for us as well. But it is, and He calls us to it.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was safe in America as Nazism rose in Germany. He could have remained here, but he heard the call of Christ to take up his own cross, with its own reproach and rejection. His end was to die naked, hanging on a gibbet, a few days before the end of the war. His life and witness continue to speak on, as do Paul's, Peter's, the disciples, and all those unknowns who joined Him in carrying the crosses destined for them by the Father. They, as did Christ, bore the reproach and rejection for the glory set before them. They finished the race as more than conquerors. Will we? Or, do we keep looking for our bottomless baskets, filled with endless blessings? Does our cross go back in the cupboard come Monday?