The Way of the Cross
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34)
If Jesus wanted to, he could have had the last word. He could have justified himself and proven to everyone around him that he was the Messiah and that this was his mission and not a terrible mistake.
Onlookers taunted him to come down from the cross. He could have done what they asked. It is difficult for us not to have the last word, especially when we are right. But the truth will come out in the end, as it did with Jesus. Justifying ourselves is not what really matters. What is important is that we are in right relationship with God, with ourselves and with others. In his dying moments, Jesus reached out to the repentant thief who was being crucified beside him. Jesus did not reject this man.
Christ could have said, “You are a law-breaker, and you are getting what you deserve.” But he didn’t. Nobody would have had a better claim to self-righteousness than Jesus. But Christ’s words were words of reconciliation and love. This is the way of the cross. Jesus was entirely selfless. He was kind and compassionate to a distressed soul and spoke words of comfort and reassurance. May we be less self-absorbed and more like Jesus. Jesus has much to teach us about acceptance and belonging. That thief was rejected by society. He was deemed unfit to live in the Roman Empire, but God accepted him and promised him an immediate place in his kingdom. Everybody who reaches out to the Lord will find forgiveness and friendship. This dying, nameless man must have recognized something in Jesus that led him to hope and believe. Believers must be people that distressed souls will look to for help.