Question about this weekend's Gospel


Everyone, I returned from Mass this evening and this weekend’s Gospel reading reminded me of a question that I keep meaning to ask.

In the reading, Jesus refers to his followers carrying their crosses. I remember references to Jesus calling for his followers to take up or carry their crosses from other Gospel readings, though I’m afraid I don’t have particular references to cite right now.

But my question is this - for us in post-Resurrection times, the notion of carrying our crosses is a powerful message because of Christ’s own crucifixion.

Yet, at the time he was proclaiming the Good News to his followers, they had no idea that he would end up on a cross on Good Friday. So, what were these references to carrying their crosses supposed to mean to Jesus listeners at the time he spoke to them?

The specific verse from this Sunday is Luke 14:27

“Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”


People dying on crosses were not unfamiliar at that time. Which means they had to carry them to the place of execution. This saying of “carring one’s cross” may have been a common phrase used to describe the hardships of life. And Jesus was just saying that it isn’t easy going when you follow me, for it requires sacrifice in your life. He just used what was familiar to them.

That’s my guesstimate.


it could be that he told them about his crucifixion before this, and is now referring to it.


That’s how we use the expression “carry one’s cross” today. But I don’t think that’s just what Jesus was getting at. As you said - crucifixion was part of daily life back then. However, people did not talk about it in polite company. It was so shameful a death that decent people avoided it. That’s what in fact makes this saying of Jesus very unique; we have no saying parallel to it in the ancient world. (‘Cross’ was only a term of insult - in cruce figaris “be fixed to a cross” or i in malam crucem “go into an evil crucifixion” - are swear words equivalent to the modern “go to hell” or even the f-word.)

Nowadays when we often talk about crucifixion we often focus on the physical aspects - you know, the lashes, the nailing, etc. But for the ancients, what makes it horrible is its social aspect. The victim and by his extension his associates are ritually put to shame by crucifixion. This is why death by crucifixion was often protracted; the victim is ‘shamed’ for as long as possible before he dies. In a culture where shame and honor are taken very seriously, social death is much worse than physical death. IMHO Jesus is, in effect, saying that if anyone wants to be His follower, one should not be afraid to follow Jesus and carry up his or her cross(beam) to the place of execution like a condemned victim, bearing all the shame that the cross carries with it. If one is going to be a follower of Jesus one shouldn’t be care about dying in shame, ostracized by society.


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