In this series of posts on The Cross (not sure how many yet), I will try to examine this Christian symbol from a few different angles. In Part 1, I will look at the scriptures that deal with “Taking up your cross.”
“And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.” (Matt 10:38)
When I first encountered this scripture, I thought it odd that Jesus was talking about “the cross” well in advance of His crucifixion. Certainly, at that point in the beginning of His ministry, His death and the method of it was quite a ways off. My first inclination was to think that maybe these were not the words of Jesus, that it was a mistranslation of some sort. There are illusions to His crucifixion in the Old Testament (Psalms 22:16: “they pierced my hands and my feet” and Zechariah 13:6 “What are these awounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was bwounded in the house of my friends”). The greek word used in that verse is σταυρός (stauros, stau-ro’s) “stake or post (as set upright), i.e. (specially), a pole or cross (as an instrument of capital punishment); figuratively, exposure to death, i.e. self-denial; by implication, the atonement of Christ:–cross.” ( Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Macdonald Publishing Company)
However, upon further reflection, I discovered that this expression, “Taking Up Your Cross” is used elsewhere in the scriptures, in addition to the New Testament, pre-crucifixion. They serve as a witness and testify to the words Jesus spoke to his disciples.
In the Book of Mormon, Jesus, speaking to the Nephites, after his death and resurrection:
“For it is better that ye should deny yourselves of these things, wherein ye will take up your across, than that ye should be cast into hell.” (3 Nephi 12:30)
In the Doctrine & Covenants:
“Behold, I manifest unto you, Joseph Knight, by these words, that you must take up your across, in the which you must bpray cvocally before the world as well as in secret, and in your family, and among your friends, and in all places. (D&C 23:6)
“And he that will not take up his across and bfollow me, and keep my commandments, the same shall not be saved. ” (D&C 56:2)
“Now, I say unto you, and what I say unto you, I say unto all the Twelve: Arise and gird up your loins, take up your across, follow me, and bfeed my sheep” (D&C 112:14)
It seems that “taking up your cross” is an important action within the gospel, the consequences of not “taking up your cross” are grave:
- “…is not worthy of me” (Matt 10:38)
- “…let him adeny himself” (Matt 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23)
- “…cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27)
- “…ye should be cast into hell” (3 Nephi 12:30)
- “…must bpray cvocally before the world as well as in secret, and in your family, and among your friends, and in all places” (D&C 23:6)
- “…the same shall not be saved” (D&C 56:2)
- follow me, and bfeed my sheep” (D&C 112:14)
We can obviously conclude that Jesus was not commanding us to emulate Him and be crucified or even suffer as He did.
So what do you think He means by “Taking Up Your Cross?” In a Church where we minimize the symbol of the Cross, not display it in or on our meetinghouse or Temples, and not wear it around our necks, how do we do this?
How do you “Take Up the Cross daily?”
We do as Ray said and take up his burden instead of our own.
I suppose in a way, we are all given a burden to bear. Those being crucified would carry their cross to the execution spot. It was a very heavy wooden beam. We each have something. Do we take it up and carry it? Or do we ignore it an set it aside?
you said “We can obviously conclude that Jesus was not commanding us to emulate Him and be crucified or even suffer as He did.” ummmm why???
I think there are a couple of points we tend to gloss over. Jesus didnt die. We should ask why did Jesus have to die but rather why was killed. All too often we forget to ask why he was killed ? I would dare to say the domination system of his day which included the roman empire and the elite within Israel kille him. Killed him because he challenged the powers that be.
Now the cross would only mean one thing to a person in palestine. Everyone knew what it meant to take up the cross. Most NT scholars I have read seem to confirm this view that Christ really meant you had to be willing to be crucified. Radical indeed. To me it seems that an attempt to diminish this is an attempt to diminish the radical calling of Christianity that led many early saints to be killed and even crucified. Now if you are saying Christ isnt asking us to perform an atonement I agree but I think he is asking us to challenge the systems and evils of the day even if it means being cast out and being crucified. that is what I see the cross as.
I think he meant what he said. I tend to agree with one of my favorite theologians that
“The believer’s cross is no longer any and every kind of suffering, sickness, or tension, the bearing of which is demanded. The believer’s cross is, like that of Jesus, the price of social nonconformity. It is not, like sickness or catastrophe, an inexplicable, unpredictable suffering; it is the end of a path freely chosen after counting the cost.” “
sorry i rushed it. I meant
We should’nt ask why did Jesus have to die but rather why was he killed.
Context for the Matt. 10 reference: it was in the middle of a sermon on persecution. It’s not clear how many disciples knew at the time that he was going to be crucified; perhaps none. What would it mean to them?
It was widely believed at the time that to be hung between heaven and earth is a curse: you are neither here nor there in death, perhaps forever. The NT takes that imagery and turns it on its head, making the Cursed One into a bridge between here and there.
To be saved, you have to cross the bridge between heaven and earth, so take up your cross and follow. The cross becomes both a symbol of the world’s contempt for Christ’s disciples and the means by which they are saved. By symbolism alone you can make a good case that these things are inseparable.
I also find it interesting to compare the “neither here nor there” curse tradition with the other ideas surrounding taking up your cross. It’s another way of saying “be in the world but not of it”. Or “deny yourself”. It’s easy to imagine the Saint who struggles against his baser instincts as lugging his tree up a hill, planting it, and firmly affixing himself between heaven and earth in a desperate attempt to follow… and then the One who bridged the gap by his own infinite suffering can reach down and lift him up.
#4 & #5 – Great comments. Thank you.
“you said “We can obviously conclude that Jesus was not commanding us to emulate Him and be crucified or even suffer as He did.” ummmm why???”
For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;
17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;
18 Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—
19 Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men. Doctrine and Covenants 19:16 – 19)
That is the reason why we do not have to suffer as Christ did. He does not expect us to be crucified because He was. He asks us to repent and bring to Him a broken heart and contrite spirit. He paid the price for us.
Right Trousers, “It was widely believed at the time that to be hung between heaven and earth is a curse:” I am not sure that I wouldn’t agree it is a curse, it is a fact of coming to earth and gaining mortality. I struggle with the image of the cross because, in spite of the beliefs of many Christians, the cross is NOT an exclusive of the Savior and his method of death. To me, it is His death that is important, the means is nothing but a means to that end. i realize that many cling to the symbol, but I think it is least important part of His act of Atonement. I think this is what I will cover next time.
Jeff your conflating the atonement with his crucifixion. No one is saying Christ wants us to atone. However, we are asked to bear our cross just as Joseph Smith did and other prophets did when they were killed because they were valiant in their testimony. Bearing your cross is not a demand to go get yourself killed or a command to go atone but it is a call to be willing to be crucified or suffer any fate in being valiant. Of course we are to repent and have broken hearts and contrite spirits. And a sign of that is being willing to suffer any fate for the gospel even crucifixion.
I also think you saying his death and not the means is important seems a bit strange. Does that mean Christ could have died in his sleep or from a illness. By your rationale he should have just keeled over in the garden since its nothing but a means anyways. Are you saying there is nothing significant in the fact that he was killed?
I actually think the crucifixion is one of the most important aspects of Christ’s life. I get why people want to diminish it as well as the charge to bear a cross. Its just too much.
That is, the saints are to carry the cross of service and consecration, the cross of devotion and obedience” (Bruce R. McConkie,Mormon Doctrine, p. 173; see also Matthew 16:24d).
No, I am not saying that Jesus could have died in His sleep. He had to be killed, sacrificed, if you will. I am just not convinced that crucifixion had to be that method. It was one of the preferred methods of Roman torture and execution and many others suffered it who were not the Messiah.
I guess I am of the school of thought that agrees with KingofTexas (#9)in that bearing one’s cross is to apply the atonement to our lives and to live that kind of life that the Savior asks of us. It isn’t so much of a burden as a privilege. Is there sacrifice required? You betcha!
I am a graduate student from CSU Sacramento, who is writing my MA thesis on The Development of the LDS Church’s No-Cross Protocol. It is nearly finished at 90+ pages long, and a draft is presently being reviewed by my thesis committee. My thesis will be the first in-depth analysis of this subject ever published; explaining how and why the LDS cross aversion came about. Most readers (whether Mormon or Mormon-critic) will be surprised to learn that the cross aversion was a very late development in the LDS Church’s history, first starting at the grassroots level around the turn of the 20th century, and then became institutionalized as church-protocol in the 1950s under the direction of President David O. McKay. Prior to the protocol, several prominent Saints embraced the Christian symbol and promoted its use.
Gee, Mike you beat me to the punch. That was the subject of my third post. Certainly not, 90 pages. I’d be very interested in reading what you have.
Really? Where did you learn of the early 20th century grassroots aversion, and David O. McKay’s institutionalization of the protocol in the 1950s? From my posts elsewhere in cyberspace?
good imputs … really …
we can also note that Jesus resurrected after bearing his cross and being crucified. He knew he was going to resurrect, he knew and / or hoped he he was going to be uplifted, but before that he had to drink the “bitter cup” – meaning in his case bearing his cross and being crucified literally. He had to go through what was required before and what was God´s will or the necessary step …
Often we strive for a betterment in our live, we have a good and righteous wish that would bring us closer to happiness and thus closer to God. God grants it to us, but in order for it to come to pass, some things in our live will have to be changed around and be reorganised. We will have to be “refined” to get what it is good for us and what we wish, – we have to bear our cross … but in this case it won´t be forever, but for a while, until we can “resurrect” to what we wanted and what God granted.
Often we have to “cross out” somethings in our lives to get what we want / can / should get.
So taking your cross upon you can also mean to endure some sort of a refinment phase to obtain greater good afterwards …
I generally agree with the comments made and think that they can all be put together … it means all of it …
Yes, and to obtain greater good in our lives, we often have to cross out something in our live so far … then we are in that one point closer to heaven or in heaven … that again shows that the “cross” can really be seen as a bridge between “earth” and “heaven”.
Jesus didn´t bear his cross forever (indicated above) – it was a limited time that he had to endure …
I think the cross is one of the great signs of Christianity … I would not mind having it in the LDS Church. Not having a crucified Jesus hanging infront at an altar though … that shows Jesus in the stage where he still had to overcome and suffers … the catholics crucify themselves with this hand sign “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost ..” Where did that come from?
Hi Karen, I found the following article very helpful in answering your question about the origins of the sign of the cross in Catholicism