There has long been debate on why there are different stories in each of the 4 Gospels. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all have similar accounts of the parables, teachings and miracles of Jesus. Some stories are in all three, some in only two of the three and some are unique to each author. John has been called “the Maverick Gospel” because his focus is on Jesus’ spiritual and mystical identity more than what He did. One series of stories remain in all 4 Gospels though, The Last Supper through the crucifixion of Jesus. It is a central piece of each and is therefore considered to be central to any Christian’s life. It often is not.
Outside of the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches, the cross is largely glossed over as an “Easter thing”. We say “Jesus died for you”, but we don’t often focus on why the Cross is important. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a 20th Century theologian and martyr. In his writings on Discipleship, he wrote,
Yet because Christ did suffer for the sake of the world’s sins, because the entire burden of sin fell upon him, and because Jesus Christ bequeaths to the disciples the fruit of his suffering – because of all this, temptation and sin also fall upon the disciples. It covers them with pure shame, and expels them from the gates of the city like the scapegoat. Thus does the Christian come to bear sin and guilt for others.
As Christ has died for the sins of the world, so we are called to bear the sins of the world as well. Bonhoeffer goes on to define that we would not be able to bear it if we were not in Him and that He had borne that weight Himself. So when we are called to take up our cross and follow, it is a call to take up the same burdens of the world and put ourselves to death for the forgiveness of their sins as Christ has suffered for ours first.
Anyone else suddenly feel overwhelmed? As Christ’s followers, we are more than just people who have received a gift of Eternal Life. We are to love as Christ, forgive as Christ, heal as Christ, speak as Christ, rebuke as Christ, teach as Christ, bless as Christ, and live as Christ. As Bonhoeffer points out, “Just as Christ bears our burdens, so also are we to bear the burdens of our brothers and sisters.” We are to be the living embodiment that the Cross is not a symbol of death and suffering but, instead, a sign of God reaching out to be in community with us. We, as His disciples, are to reach out to others to bring them into that community by bearing what burdens them, their sin, and offering forgiveness and love, unconditionally.
Have we only accepted the Gospel for what Jesus can do for us?
Have we truly taken up the Cross of Christ and are willing to bear the burdens of others who do not know Christ in order that they can?
Have we bought into a “cheap grace” when Christ has paid the price?
Excerpted from Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter. Dietrich Bonhoeffer