So, in Alabama we have a historical artifact that relates to Mark, Chapter 8.
Have you ever heard of Yellow Mama? Its our electric chair. We don't use it anymore, but it is basically a symbol of our history, sordid or lawful, depending on your stance on capital punishment. But that is not the issue I want to address.
In Mark 8, Jesus asks the disciples (and us, as readers) to take up our cross, and follow him. You know what I hear, as an Alabamian?
Take up your Yellow Mama, and follow me.
Wow. I mean, sure, the cross is a symbol of love, hope, peace, joy, patience, forgiveness, and grace right?
wrong. When Jesus was walking around talking about taking up a cross - it was a symbol of death. A symbol of lonliness, shame, anguish, rejection, and submission to Rome's power.
Sure, now it has a different meaning for us. But that association was not why Jesus took the symbol of the cross as his stand against the forces of this world and all that has gone wrong. He took it as a symbol of how far he was willing to go to get us back.
Can we say that we look at it as a symbol of how far we should go too? Or just a reasurrance on how far God will go.
God would go to the electric chair for you. Sounds a little different, doesn't it? Makes you stop. Makes you want to say, "no way Jesus, don't do that" - which, btw, is what Peter tried to do. To which Jesus gives the Godly smack down and says...
You are thinking like Satan. Talk to the hand! God's ways are different than humanity is expecting.
Three things pop out in this passage. 1.) Deny self. 2.) Take up your cross. 3) Follow me.
Sure, those kind of all go together, but self denial and following Jesus sometimes interfere inside a church.
Are you concerned about saving your life? You'll lose. Are you concerned about giving yourself for God? Strangly, paradoxically, and beautifully, if you can do that...deny self and take God's will as your own - you will receive life, and life abundantly.