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Take up your cross... - Mathew 16

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by , 01-15-2013 at 02:50 PM (608 Views)
Reading through Mathew I have come to the point where Jesus is beginning to talk more openly about His death at Jerusalem. Peter has just rebuked Him and told Him that dying at Jerusalem is not the way things should work out for them. Jesus has rebuked Him sharply addressing him as Satan, the distinction between what Satan says and Peter - well you couldn't slip a piece of paper between them.

Now Jesus tells them they must take up their cross and deny themselves. Yet what would this have meant to the crowd before Christ's death and resurrection. Well, contrary to some opinions the Jews were well acquainted with crucifixion. Two thousand Jews were crucified when the Romans put down a rebellion that occurred at Herod the Great's death. The Roman method of execution was well known throughout Israel. It had traction and would have meant something to the audience.

The idea of denying somebody i.e. yourself is harder to explain. Broadus puts it well when he says that petty little things have diminished the impact of this statement. The Greek apparently does not occur outside of the Church. Then again the idea doesn't either. To deny somebody is to repudiate, if a husband were to repudiate his wife he would be divorcing her. If a father were to repudiate a bastard son (not sure you can nowadays) he would be denying him a name, support or any inheritance. If a mother were to deny a new-born baby we are talking about failing to bond, feed or even hold - implicitly putting up for adoption.

Applying this to ourselves we are saying "no" to our worldly aspirations. We are repudiating all claims our "flesh" (the worldly part of us) might have on us.

What really 'blows my mind' is that while both these ideas have traction, validity and meaning before Christ's death and resurrection, after His crucifixion and resurrection they are THE central motif of Christianity. What had meaning before now is central to the faith.

What is the primary meaning of the text, before the crucifixion and the anticipated meaning, secondary, changes. The secondary meaning becomes primary for us. This is very confusing for us who cannot help reading back into the text the anticipated crucifixion of Christ. Yet the meaning understood by the audience that first heard the words was still valid after His resurrection - only more so!

I thought originally that there would be two meanings but no there is one meaning exemplified and intensified!

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