What’s Your Cross To Bear?

Matthew 16:24-28

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it. “For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? “For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and WILL THEN RECOMPENSE EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS. “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”

We are still in Matthew 16 and more familiar phrases are made in the middle of Matthew by Jesus. Many pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers utter the words, “take up your cross,” but do they consider this current context? We also are asked frequently from songs, billboards, books and boastings of a bountiful batch of pretentious, prosperity preachers, who line their pockets with offerings and book buyings from the hard earned money of credulous congregants– “what does it profit a man to gain the world but lose his soul?” Oh how their hypocrisy is highlighted by considering the context!

Misconstrued metaphorical meanings and ripping verses out of context have become a plague in western Christianity. Our simple, sappy, “spiritual” songs actually stunt our spiritual growth, stymy our senses and shackle the Scriptures. Worse yet are the borderline heresies preached from our pulpits. Many pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers, teach that “the cross” is some burden that one carries. They say things like, “we all have a cross to bear, your cross may be, such and such.” I will wager that everyone of you who is reading this has heard that before at some point in your life. You may have even said it yourself to someone else who was struggling with something–“we all have a cross to bear.”

Did Jesus say that? Or did Paul, Peter, John or James utter the words, “we all have a cross to bear?” No, it is an idiotic idiom. Please don’t feel badly because you have used the phrase, it’s not your fault. We are sheep being sheepishly shepherded by shepherds​ too afraid to stand alone on the word of God. We need to pray for our pastors, that they will no longer follow traditions passed down from previous pastoral premises, salvaging sermons that should be sent to the scrapheap. We need to pray for pastors who will take the time to be in God’s word. We need to be in God’s word ourselves. That way we can answer our own question by using the CAGED method and not take too much time questioning our pastors over every little thing, freeing them to spend more time in the Bible. You can do it, the CAGED method can help.

To those who are new to my missives, I don’t get paid to write about the CAGED method, it actually costs me money and time. It’s all I know and I freely received, freely I give. I have no other motive than for people to read the Bible as it was written, therefore, I came up with the CAGED method of Biblical hermeneutics.

  • Context, Context, Context
  • Author’s Aspirations to Audience
  • Genre
  • Expository Exegesis of Examples
  • Divide Rightly the Word of Truth

When we consider these things as we read, we will unlock the caged Scripture which has been bound by our culture, traditions, presuppositions and preconceived notions. Today’s text is another example of how we keep the content caged. “We all have a cross to bear.”

The cross has only one meaning, death. However, me writing that, doesn’t make it so. Therefore we must use the CAGED method, which begins with the context–to the context we will go. “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.'”

We will start with the word, “then.” Τότε, in Greek, meaning; “at that time.” However we don’t need to consider the Greek because we know what “then” means. I use the Greek to highlight the fact that we need to consider the previous context. When we begin to read a particular passage and we see that the context is linked to the previous context, we must consider the cumulative context. The best way to do so is to read the Bible like any other piece of literature–from the beginning. I once read the middle third of novel, I couldn’t figure out why the Hidalgo Quixote and his sidekick, Sancho, were attacking windmills and I have no idea how it ended. Yes, we should start in Genesis but I realize that there is much context to consider before coming to the New Testament–at least try to begin in the beginning of a book. 

When Jesus says, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me,” it is directly after he tells his disciples that he is going to be put to death. We read last time; “From that time Jesus Christ began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.’ But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.’” And now, “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”

It is already begining to make more sense, isn’t it? The cross isn’t a symbol of one’s burdens but of self denial. Peter needed to lose himself and embrace the cross. Peter’s mind was still set on earth, his ideas and the ideas of men. Like the Pharisees who “taught as doctrine, the precepts of men,” Peter placed his faith in the wrong place.

An expository exegesis of examples enlightens us, more so than the disciples at that time because we have the completed Scripture. Paul writes, “If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Peter didn’t have this information at the time, but we do. We have the ability to let Scripture interpret Scripture, we simply have to take the time.

The cross is our death to self, the context of Christ’s words bear witness to this. Notice; “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” Jesus is talking about self-denial not about one’s burdens. It’s one of many misconstrued metaphorical meanings that have no basis in the Scripture–but it sounds good, doesn’t it? Don’t worry, Jesus has much to say about our burdens but not in this context.

The context continues; “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.” I love words, if you couldn’t tell. Notice the little three letter word, “for.” What part of speach is it? It is a conjunction. Conjunction what’s your function? It ties the two phrases together, tightly. Let’s put it back together. “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.” 

Is Jesus speaking of one’s burdens or about losing one’s own opinions, actions, thoughts, beliefs and values? Jesus came to fundamentally change man. The old man must die and the new man must be reborn. Consider John 3:3, “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born bagain, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’”

“For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Jesus continues to teach the disciples that the entire earth is not comparable to the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus, the metaphor man is also the Regent of Rhetoric. These are rhetorical questions, related to the immediate context, confirmed by the word, “for.” These verses are not meant to stand alone but are tenaciously tied together.

“If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it. For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and WILL THEN RECOMPENSE EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS.”

One reason I prefer the NASB translation is when the Old Testament is quoted, we are alerted by “all-caps.” Therefore, Old Testament alert! It is from Psalm 62, which goes well with the context of Matthew 16. For time’s sake I will not quote all of it but take the time to read it yourself. Read my missive, “The Rock,” as well, you’ll get a kick out of it. The following is a snippet: “My hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, My stronghold; I shall not be shaken. On God my salvation and my glory rest; The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God.”

“Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”

I think I will leave it there–I believe that I have stepped on a enough toes and ruffled a few feathers–no need to continue the onslaught. Lord willing though, we will come back to this in Matthew 24. We will see how many more metaphorical feathers I can ruffle until then.

Yourself.

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