My wife and I just spent a few days on California’s central coast. Two nights in Santa Barbara and another in Monterey – what could be better? Getting up and running in the cool ocean breezes in the morning, strolling through the shops, stopping to eat some treats from storefront bakeries, fresh seafood practically jumping onto our dinner plates. It was a wonderfully relaxing time.
Then we drove home.
The drive from Monterey to our home a few miles west of Sacramento wasn’t really bad. We started up along the coast and then took the two lane road that runs east to the freeway north. That’s where we saw the man with the cross.
We knew there was something coming up, because traffic had slowed down. Then we saw him on the other side of the road way, walking with the oncoming traffic. As soon as we passed, we were able to go the speed limit again.
The people in that oncoming traffic weren’t so lucky.
He had them slowed down to a crawl and backed up for two miles as he wheeled his cross on the narrow strip of asphalt that constituted the shoulder of the highway.
I wonder whether any of those people who saw him found themselves attracted to the gospel of Christ.
Taking Up Your Cross
When Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23), I’m fairly sure he was speaking in a spiritual sense. Unless you’re about to be nailed to it (as some early Christians were), carrying a literal cross along the roadside doesn’t seem to me to be a fulfillment of that passage, particularly when you look at Jesus’ statement in context:
Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:23-26.)
The cross-bearing is about being completely identified with Jesus, unashamedly giving ourselves over to his word and following Jesus wherever he takes us. Hammering some beams into a cross and traipsing along the roadside slowing down traffic in no way fits the purpose of Luke 9. That passage is about losing our lives in Jesus and finding in him that we have gained more than the whole world has to offer.
That doesn’t take a cross on wheels. It takes Jesus.