Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Mark 8, verse 34.
After writing about how terrible and hard it is to take up our cross for Jesus, I don’t want to let another point slip by unobserved. As we talked about yesterday, Jesus said something that is, by our standards, harsh. It’s tough for us to get past that. And it’s almost like He’s being contradictory, even schizophrenic, since Jesus is the same man who said “my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” When we look at Jesus’ tough words about taking up our crosses through the prism of our ‘modern’ emotions, they are pretty bitter pills to swallow.
Here’s what I think of emotion: don’t let it steal your joy. Jesus didn’t create us to focus us on emotion or on agony. Instead, He allows the agony so that it leads to joy. It’s for joy that we take up that cross: the joy of satisfaction in living for something (and Someone) better than ourselves. It’s for eternal joy that Jesus took up His cross; to share in this is why He exhorts us to take up our own. Rather than getting wrapped around the axle and not getting past the torture of crucifixion, accept the joy of what Jesus is saying. He calls the crowd and they draw to Him; they draw to Him because they know He has a reputation for love and miracles. When they draw to Him, Jesus levels with them telling them that His message is radical, that it will cost them dearly to follow Him. He’s being honest with them. In a few verses we also find that He talks about why His cross and ours are so important. Boil them down and the reason is joy.
Think about it. Can you be happy, know real joy, while you hold onto that grudge, that anger, that chip on your shoulder? Is it possible to know joy without the giving and receiving of forgiveness? Answering ‘yes’ to either of those questions would not be honest. When our emotions are all in upheaval, we don’t know joy. Those sins and those emotions must be submitted to God in Jesus via the cross. The reason for the cross was to slay the sin of the world, remolding those who believe in Him to be the people of joy we were meant to be. On the road to eternity, the way to joy travels through the cross.
There’s a song on Christian radio that says “we were made to thrive” (Casting Crowns). Joy unspeakable, faith unshakeable, love unstoppable, anything is possible; more words from the same song. They could easily be talking about the joy of dying in this life for Jesus. We were indeed made to thrive. We were indeed made for joy, for the joy of kneeling forgiven before our God and Savior King Jesus, then standing beside Him forever as both his worshipper, brother and friend. To get to that point, we must take up the joy of the suffering that is the cross. It refines us, puts to death our old Adam, and carries us forward into becoming the people in joy who Jesus wants us to become.
Lord, bless You to bless me with Your joy. Thank You for Your cross, and for the joyful burden of mine.
Read Mark 8, verses 34-38.