The Call of the Cross
I struggled to figure out what to write about for this blog post as I looked ahead to Easter. Then my mind was drawn back a few decades to a play written by a lady in our church for a group of us- junior high girls- not only to learn the lines and perform it, but to reflect on the meaning of the cross.
I remember taking part in a few performances, playing the part of the evangelist calling people with the words of Jesus from Matthew 11:28-30 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
The importance of the cross, its meaning, and our need to choose what we would do with the gift of God offered to us through Jesus was intertwined with Jesus' invitation to come to him throughout the play. Each person who answered the call of the evangelist needed to decide what to do with the words of Luke 9:23-26 "Then he (Jesus) said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels."
Those not acting in the play sang old hymns between the people who came seeking to take up their cross and follow Jesus. The music and words of hymns such as The Old Rugged Cross by George Bennard b 1873, Beneath the Cross of Jesus by Elizabeth C Clephane 1863 & Frederick C. Maker 1881, or When I Survey the Wondrous Cross by Isaac Watts 1707 and Edward Miller 1790 helped drive the message of the cross deep into my heart.
One person in the play chose a pretty piece of cross jewelry to wear instead of a heavy, ugly wooden cross. She wanted to follow Jesus but didn't want the hardships. She wanted the cross to be beautiful, ornamental, and able to be taken off when she chose to do so.
Another one came to answer the call but feared what people might think of their decision. She chose a small cross that fit in her pocket. She could reach in and touch it, remember Jesus, but not have to lug around something for all the world to see. She was ashamed to admit she followed Christ and went away saddened by having to choose the full meaning of the cross.
Yet one more person, in this play, showed up to answer the call of Jesus to come and follow Him. They chose a smaller cross to carry because they didn't want the heavy burden of the rough, old, wooden, full-size cross. They wanted to know if this would be good enough to show others they were not ashamed of following Jesus without giving up too much.
One last person showed up to answer the call. She chose to deny herself and obey Jesus with everything she was and had. She picked up the heavy cross, staggered under the weight and yet felt refreshed because Jesus took all her burdens and sins as she accepted God's gift of salvation. Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ."
Decades have blurred all the details of the play, but the message remains strong in my heart and mind Incorporating music and the visual actions of the play reinforced the Bible verses and the message of Easter. The call of the cross remains the same today as it did when Jesus died on it, was buried and rose again. Jesus still calls us to come to him, deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him completely. Do we come? Do we deny ourselves or are we ashamed and want to hide the fact we follow him? Do we want life to be easy and long for a prosperity gospel, that does not require much of us? Do we adorn ourselves with the cross in the form of jewelry but never think about the cost to Jesus of hanging on the rough cross of Calvary to pay the penalty for our sins? Have we decided to follow Jesus no matter what the cost, any place he leads, and totally trust Him for everything we need?
Verse 3 of the hymn, Old Rugged Cross, reminds us of the reason for the cross. Do we find it a thing of beauty because of what it symbolizes?
In the old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine
A wondrous beauty I see;
For' twas o that old cross
Jesus suffered and died
To pardon and sanctify me.
Words from verse 3 of Beneath the Cross of Jesus call me to examine myself. Can I honestly say with the hymn writer that my glory is in the cross of Jesus?
Content to let the world go by,
To know no gain or loss,
My sinful self, my only shame,
My glory all the cross.
As I reflected back on the impact this play had on me, looked at the meaning of the call of the cross, and contemplated Easter's approach, I pray God will help me not be ashamed of following Him. I desire His help so I can live the lines from the hymn When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
When I survey the wondrous cross,
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gains I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were a present far too small;
Love so amazing , so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
Carol Harrison lives, writes, and tells stories from Saskatoon, SK. She loves to share Bible Stories and real-life experiences to encourage others and help them learn to share their stories as well.