"Take up your cross."
It's an image that has fallen casualty to overuse, overfamiliarity and over-spiritualization. When we talk about our own "crosses to bear," the crosses we perceive ourselves as carrying tend to be the usual discomforts of human life -- illness; interpersonal friction; financial misfortune. Or perhaps we associate a cross with some form of voluntary asceticism.
But I wonder if Jesus' original hearers, and the original hearers of Mark's Gospel, had the same tamed and mundane crosses in mind.
Because crucifixion was a unique, purposeful means of execution. The process -- from the scourging and stripping, to the awful journey toward the execution site, to the extended psychological as well as physical torment of being nailed to a crossbeam and left to slowly die, naked and incontinent, was designed to maximize the humiliation of the condemned, and in doing so to send a message from the powers that be to the rest of society: Challenge our authority, and this is what will happen to you.
When Jesus challenged his listeners to take up their crosses, I suspect that what came to their minds was something other than the rigors of daily life or self-imposed spiritual discipline. I think that they recognized in a way that we don't, the danger implicit in taking Christ seriously, in living into a Reign of God whose values and priorities diverge from those of the dominant culture -- including the dominant religious culture -- and the "powers and principalities" that run it.
So what does it really mean to take up our cross and follow Jesus? What does it mean to "lose our lives" in terms of the claims that our dominant culture places on them?
Station 7: Christ Falls a Second Time, Chris Woods