Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. (Matt. 16:24)
What does the cross mean?
As one of the most universal symbols in the world, to Christians it means their dependence on Jesus Christ—a reminder of their faith. To people under Roman rule, it surely meant death. The Romans sometimes punished people to death by crucifixion—an excruciating, drawn-out, public form of asphyxiation. This image must have been deeply ingrained in the minds of the people of Judea during the ministry of Christ. During his ministry, Jesus invited them to ‘take up the cross and to follow him’ (Luke 9:23). This may have been quite a morbid invitation and it must have been prophetic to see the Master literally carried the cross to His death. It was through this death that God made an atonement for all Creation. So, was Savior’s invitation to ‘take up the cross and follow him’ an invitation to martyrdom? Mostly Christians focus on the following him through good works. However, there are many lessons that can be extracted from the sacrifice of our Redeemer (e.g.: love, humility, diligence, temperance, patience, consecration, etc.). Besides the salvation of our souls, the atonement must also be a life lesson, too. What is that ultimate teaching?
Even though The Quran and The New Testament are at odds about many details of Jesus’s life and death, but there is one title that stands out to me and they both agree on: Word (John 1:1-5; Quran 3:45, 4:171). For the Christians this means, ‘the word made flesh’ (John 1:14). Christians claim he is the Son of God, while Muslims state he is not; rather, Jesus is the Word because God (Allah) caused the Virgen Mary to conceive miraculously through it being a creative mandate—His word. “Indeed the likeness of Jesus to God as the likeness of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him, ‘Be,’ and he was” (Quran 3:59).In other words, The Quran says that Jesus is a manifestation of God’s creative power in the same way that Adam was. Because: “it is He [Allah] who gives life and causes death; and when He decrees a matter, He but says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is” (Quran 40:68).
No matter how one sees Jesus as being the Word, there no doubt that Jesus lived by “every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4, Deut. 8:3). Appropriately, the word Muslim literally means “one who submits to God” (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Muslim). Jesus definitely submitted to the will of the Eternal Father in all things. Perhaps, it is through continual communion with the Spirit of God that Jesus can say “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do” (John 5:19). The ultimate lesson of from the cross is to allow your old self to die and be reborn as a disciple of Jesus Christ, who was ‘the Word made flesh.’
[This reflection was the result of conversation with my wife’s about her Young Women’s lesson on Easter Sunday.]