Picking up a few items in a local big box store a few weeks ago, I heard a loud crash and groan one aisle over, on the store’s extensive candy aisle.
Store workers had cleared several shelves for Easter candy — marshmallow chicks, chocolate bunnies, cream-filled chocolate eggs — seasonal sweet stuff. But one large box had toppled, spilling brightly colored seasonal boxes all over.
I came over to help the flustered employee pick up the scattered boxes and discovered we were picking up large chocolate crosses. Another shopper nearby commented to me, “I’m not sure that’s what Jesus meant when he said, ‘Take up your cross!'”
I have since discovered there are a variety of candy crosses, even crucifix lollipops, but I had never seen or registered seeing a candy cross before.
No offense to chocolate lovers (I’m one of you) or to the confection industry (I’m a loyal customer), but chocolate strikes me as a peculiar way to commemorate Christ’s sacrificial death.
But then, the cross itself is a peculiar symbol for making a faith statement and on which to stake our lives.
The Roman Empire executed criminals and troublemakers by crucifixion to make a brutal statement: Our empire holds the power of life and death over you. We will inflict pain and take your life if your disrupt or displease us.
There was no more shameful, humiliating and inhumane death than being staked to the cross to slowly suffocate.
No wonder we prefer our crosses sanitized, sugar coated, fashioned into jewelry or some other accessory. Often, our tendency is to take worldly threats, hard truths and harsh realities and sanitize or sugarcoat them. We pretend that suffering and sorrow can be easily consumed and discarded, although leached of meaning.
For disciples of Jesus, the cross of our crucified, risen, and reigning Lord is the sign of God’s undying love. The cross Jesus bears is worsened immeasurably by the entirety of human sin and inhumane disobedience heaped on him, yet we cannot kill the truth of God’s immeasurable love for us. Scripturally, the Suffering Servant IS the Savior of all.
So when Jesus issues the call of discipleship (Matthew 16:24): “Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me,” he does not speak of candy crosses or fashion accessories but the path of self-denial, suffering, and sacrifice. What a peculiar symbol for making a faith statement and on which to stake our lives.
What kind of cross do you pick up and carry into the day?