If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it. (Matthew 10:38-39)
Relate: The Esqualine Gate was the gateway between the City of Rome and the Emperor’s gardens. Some of the most luxurious parts of the city, like Nero’s golden house and the bath houses of Titus and Trajan, were located near the gate. Just outside the gate sat the Gardens of Maecenas atop the Esqualine Hill. These were the property of the Emperor and only those he favored were allowed to visit them. But it wasn’t the bathhouses, the Golden house, or even the gardens that the Esqualine Gate was famous for. This gate was the place of the cross. It was the place that Roman criminals were crucified.
Crucifixion was not a private, quiet matter. As much as it was a method of torture, it was also a preventative measure. The condemned criminal was to pick up the 125 pound crossbeam and carry it, paraded through the streets from the place of sentencing to the Esqualine Gate (or in other cities, a highly trafficked gate just outside the city). The world would see the criminal’s shame. Those in the city would be able to see the condemned walk by. Those coming to Rome by the Labicana or the Praestina roads would have to pass by the cross. Everybody would see, and know, and be warned.
React: Jesus said that anyone who refuses to take up their cross is not worthy to be called his follower. The only way to pass from the luxuries of this world to the gardens on the hill (heaven) is through the gate of the cross. Following Jesus is not a private affair. If people that I know are surprised to find out that I am a Christian, then I am probably not. If I am not willing to publicly bear my shame, and His glory, for all the world to see then I cannot be a follower of Christ. How willing am I to carry my cross? How willing am I to die?
God, help me to be willing to carry my cross. Sometimes it gets heavy. Sometimes it gets a bit embarrassing. But You endured the shame. You carried the weight of the world. You carried the weight of my sin. Help me to be willing to publicly, proudly, with the whole world watching, follow You to the place of death, that I might live again.