Luke 14:25-33 Now large crowds were traveling with Jesus; and he turned and said to them, "Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, `This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.' Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.
Reflection Most of us look at the cross and see either the dark Good Friday cross with Jesus’ dead body nailed to it or the Easter Morning cross, draped in white and pointing to resurrection. But none of this has happened yet. Jesus is very much alive when he instructs us to “Pick up the cross and follow me?” He never read the description of his death, “He (Jesus) bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2.24) Nor was he privy to the work of the bishops at the First Council of Nicea three hundred years after his death, ironing out the details of his dual nature and the atoning benefits of his sacrificial death as perfect substitute for the sin of humanity. So, what does Jesus mean, “Pick up the cross and follow me?”
One way to understand the cross is as the intersection of human and Divine life. The horizontal timber corresponds to our temporal life journey. The vertical beam represents Divine Presence on earth. At their intersection is the present moment. Each of us is traveling the horizontal plane amidst large crowds with Jesus, headed to Jerusalem because no one gets out of life alive. All along the way the vertical dimension of Divinity crosses our path in the present moment. Whenever we choose to accept or consent to the present moment, we are aligned with Divine Presence. We have “picked up the cross to follow Jesus.”
More often than not, instead of saying, “Yes, yes,” to the present moment, we equivocate. “Well, this is not how I pictured it. This hurts, I don’t like it. This makes me feel vulnerable, puts me out on a limb, out of control. What will people think? This is not good. No way. I can’t. I won’t.” We reject the present moment. In Jesus’ terms, we refuse to “Pick up the cross and follow me.” Perhaps this is why Jesus counsels us to “give up all of our possessions,” to let go of anything that is in the way of saying “Yes, yes,” to the present moment.
Let me be clear. I do not for a moment believe Jesus wants us to give up our food, shelter or loved ones. Nor do I believe Jesus wants us to roll over and be doormats for mistreatment. Rather I believe Jesus is inviting us to dispense with our ideas about God about ourselves and about the way things are supposed to be. Jesus is inviting us to consent to the present moment and in so doing align ourselves with Divine Presence. Jesus is unequivocal. “Pick up the cross and follow me. Consent to the present moment and you will find me there with you. “
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