I’m getting old, 69 last month in fact. Sometimes it seems like my get-up-and-go just got-up-and-went…somewhere. I find that it is most certainly true that the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak these days.
“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41 (ESV)
When Jesus said that to the disciples as they were in the Garden of Gethsemane, He was cautioning them against temptation. However, these days I’m frequently finding it true physically, too. Example: The floor really should be mopped (fact) – that’s a good project for tomorrow (excuse for not having the gumption to do it today).
As I pondered the thought, and my procrastination, another very well-known scripture came to mind. “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” Matthew 16:24 Bible (NASB). I recalled that every teaching or sermon I remember hearing treated that like the big major feat it would certainly be, and that is most assuredly true. But as I deliberated on that, something else came to mind…another perspective, I would call it.
I am accustomed to taking that scripture at face value aside from replacing the “cross” with some major duty or calling in my life that I would rather not do. As I read several different translations of scripture, I noticed they weren’t all exactly the same. They did not all say “…take up his cross and follow Me.” So, it was time to dig in and straighten this out in my mind.
As I researched this, I found some remarkably interesting things. Such as, contentions that the scribes and translators took liberties they should not have, laid out like a legal case being argued in a courtroom. The article I read was laying out reasons to believe Jesus did not die on a cross but a stake, which really doesn’t rank high on my list of things I want to study. But the point is that He died for me and rose from the dead and because I accept that gift and pursue His ways, I’ll be able to bypass eternity in hell. Period. That’s the short version of His long, beautiful story. The in-between part is what we all deal with every day we wake up, and do what we do, day after day.
To consolidate what I found, the “cross” as written in the Aramaic that Jesus himself spoke, says that the “cross” of this phrase of scripture is a “staff”. We have all seen the pictures where people back in Biblical times carried with them a staff, or walking stick, not unlike hikers often do today. Obviously, these walking sticks or staffs were common and ordinary, as well as helpful, so could these scriptures mean to take up our staff and do every day what we are called upon to do that day? Could it mean that the small seemingly unimportant things that make up the days of ordinary people, are as important as those bigger, more important, or major “crosses”? Could those scriptures be telling us to take up our staff and do what the Lord requires of us each day, whether big things or small, pleasant, or unpleasant, easy, or difficult? And since they are helpful, could that not pertain to the rest of the phrase “…and follow Me”?
After reading and meditating on these scriptures, I came to the conclusion that “cross” creates a mental picture of big, unpleasant, or difficult things we will be asked to do for the Lord in our lives. And the “staff” can represent the common, sometimes mundane, daily things, much less conspicuous aspects of ordinary people’s lives when we live as branches of the True Vine.
Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23, and my favorite of them all, Luke 14:27 – “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (ESV) It is a handy reminder for me that procrastination isn’t a character trait of a willing follower.