I have already posted an article about how we read a Greek word such as “stauron” as only “cross.” (See The cross of Jesus) Us contemporary Christians know that Jesus was crucified (nailed to a heavy wooden pole with a cross member, which was actually T-shaped), so we read all his comments that instructs, “You must pick up your cross and follow me,” where his instructions use “stauron,” as Jesus prophesying about his cruel death.
While that prophetic element is true, the problem is that is only half the story. While we know that is the method by which Jesus would be killed – crucified by the Romans – reading “stauron” as “cross” is actually the weakest way to read that word. Let me explain.
In Mark 8:34 and in Matthew 16:24 is written: “aratō ton stauron autou kai akoloutheitō moi.” This is translated as, “take up their cross and follow me.”
In Luke 9:23 is written: “aratō ton stauron autou kath’ hēmeran kai akoloutheitō moi.” This is translated as, “take up their cross daily and follow me,” where the inclusion of “daily” is important to see. When picking up one’s cross is a daily exercise, it cannot mean the admission of a life-ending event. Imagine the pressures of thinking each day could be THE DAY, when someone would come flog you and then crucify you (with your own cross!).
Not long before this event, when Jesus gave this instruction to his disciples and followers (the families of disciples and Jews who had witnesses Jesus’ miracles and then tagged along), he had privately told his disciples that he would face persecution, be killed, and rise again after three days. That was the second time he had told his disciples that news. Still, the fact that Jesus told the twelve of his pending death is no reason for any of them to think Jesus saying, “pick up your cross” was a prophecy of the manner of death he would face.
After all, Jesus was only making the Jews of Jerusalem mad, and they never crucified anyone. By Jewish law, they couldn’t. Further, the Romans were not hunting for Jesus, nor his disciples, because they did not see any of them as a threat to their empire. The Pharisees had attempted to stone Jesus for heresy (more than once); but Jesus had proven his ability to disappear and escape their grasp. Therefore, Jesus telling his disciples and followers “that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again,” those words had no one panicking and worrying about needing to get a “cross” and prepare for their own torturous deaths.
Seeing that is a “Big Brain Syndrome” problem, from knowing what happens before it happens, and then projecting that knowledge onto a group of fairly normal brained 1st century Jews. The fact that Jesus would be crucified, and the fact that several Apostles would later be crucified cannot be factored into what they thought was ahead in time, simply because of the words spoken at that time.
Consider this: Other than the early story in the Gospels, of Herod the Great killing all the children under the age of two, in order to prevent a new king from growing to take his reign, there is no indication of any crucifixions that were worthy of the disciples reporting them (and expressing fear of a future known in hindsight, as an aside – like John often did). None of the two year old children ordered killed by Herod were crucified, proving that manner of death was not always to be expected of Romans. Herod Antipas had beheaded John the Baptist, not crucified him, with beheading actually a quick form of execution reserved for criminals of dignity and rank. So, a disciple or follower of Jesus hearing him say to pick up a “stauros” would do little to incite panic and fear.
It is only hindsight that makes us think that. Jesus was speaking on multi-dimensional levels, as the voice of God (he spoke only what the Father commanded him to say). The Holy Bible is such a powerful, living document because one translation is too limiting. That must be realized, because God is not one-dimensional, meaning all meanings and definitions of “stauron” have to be considered.
The Greek word stauros means, “an upright stake; a stake or post (as set upright), i.e. (specially), a pole or cross.” However, in Acts, Galatians, and 1 Peter, we see the use of the word “xulon,” where the implication was that Jesus was “hung from a tree.” The Greek word “xulon” is defined as meaning, “anything made of wood, a piece of wood, a club, staff; the trunk of a tree, used to support the cross-bar of a cross in crucifixion.”
What Jesus had mentioned to his disciples and followers previously (more than once) were metaphors telling of grapevines, vineyards, fruit of the vine and how he was the true vine. A most important element in a good vineyard is the “stakes,” which are T-shaped crosses. A raised stake keeps the vines travelling along strings-cords-wires, above the ground. The stakes must be sturdy because when the grapes begin to swell, the weight can make a stake lean over. Maintenance of a vineyard means making sure the stakes keep the vines and grapes from falling to the ground, where they can be choked by weeds or eaten by wild animals.
When this is seen as how a disciple would have heard “raise up you stake [daily],” they would have been motivated to continue following Jesus, as being around him raised them high in spirits, and made them good fruit.
When one can then see how Jesus was crucified, that too fit the vineyard metaphor. As good ripened fruit hanging from a raised post, one can then see Jesus as the good fruit of the true vine on the Golgotha cross. He would be picked from the cross and then fermented in the tomb, where he transformed into the Spiritual wine that would truly make the disciples be raised to the heights of Apostles.
This then brings up the point of Jesus saying, “follow me.” The Greek word “akoloutheitō” means, “to follow, to accompany, to attend,” where another use is as “to follow one who precedes, join him as his attendant, or accompany him,” while also meaning “to follow one in time, or succeed one.” This last use is critically important to realize.
At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, as he was gathering his disciples, he said to them, “Deute opisō meu” (Matthew 4:19) which is translated as, “Come, follow me” (NIV), but which literally states, “Come follow after me.” The Greek word “Deute” means, “Come hither, Come, Come away, or Come follow.” The Greek word “opisō” means, “after, behind, back, around, or follow.” John wrote the Greek word, “Erchesthe,” which means, “Come or Go.”
The disciples responded by following Jesus as disciples, walking the path he led, while learning the skills he taught. This means that for Jesus to tell his disciples again to follow him, it was unnecessarily redundancy. They were not afraid of walking with Jesus; and just prior to this event the disciples were arguing among themselves about who would take over as their leader, after Jesus was killed (as he had said). This means they were planning on “following on after Jesus.” However, Jesus was not repeating himself (just as he was not repeating himself when he asked Peter, “Do you love me?” three times, using three different words for “love”). There is significance in EVERYTHING written, as the source of everything written is God.
Jesus meant that IF anyone was really planning on being the replacement for Jesus after he was gone, then they MUST raise their standards of living (pick up their trellises and make sure each got their cutting of the true vine, so no one would be mistaken for a wild vine) and get ready to bear fruit, AFTER the fruit of Jesus has been picked. Jesus told them AND he is telling us too, “Rise up, so YOU can follow as a reborn Jesus, another son of Man (regardless of one’s mortal sex).”
It needs to be seen that the original icon or symbol for Christianity was not the cross (+), but the fish (<><). The fish is a symbol of the astrological sign Pisces (Latin = The Fish [pl.]: )-( ), which is a highly religious sign, representative of the most spiritual qualities of the hidden, mystic and subconscious. Generally, Pisces symbolizes “Willing sacrifice for a higher cause.” Jesus represented the advent of the Age of Pisces, which followed the Age of Aries (from many gods to One God). Thus, the Age of Jesus is coming to an end with the Age of Aquarius (the Age of Knowledge), which we are now entering.
Relative to our mindsets being fixed on “stauron” as only meaning “cross,” it is easy to see how the icon that has captured so much attention over the past 1700 years is the Crucifix. Some go to lengths projecting a painfully looking dead Jesus still nailed to it.
A linear translation that leads to only seeing the death of Jesus. It misses the point of his Resurrection and Ascension. A cross of death puts too much attention on the death of Jesus, missing the more important points of his Resurrection or Ascension. Still, the Cross is important in an unseen way, which is like the X-axis and Y-axis intersection in plane geometry.
Such a cross represents values that are positive or negative, or a combination of positive and negative. Regardless of what quadrant a coordinate falls, the value of the intersection of the axes is Zero (the Origin). There was a long time in the history of mathematics that no one understood the value of Zero. For my purpose now, try and see how the Zero point represents the Spiritual realm, with all other values of the quadrants representative of the Physical realm.
As such, Zero becomes the point where the Spiritual connects to the Physical. When one can grasp this concept, then one can see one axis as representative of God (Spiritual, Heavenly), with the other axis representing the Son (Physical, Mortal), and the point of intersection representing the Holy Spirit. Such a representative cross symbolizes one who has picked up one’s standard of living, welcoming God and becoming a reborn Jesus. This means the Cross is truly a holy symbol as representative of the Trinity.
An appropriate depiction of this Cross, if it needs to be seen like a crucifix, would be where a rose is at that crossing point. Notice how each end of the cross produces arrows, indicating the infinite direction that each quadrant projects towards.
With this image in mind, see Jesus’ heart as the good fruit on the Roman cross of death. Then see Jesus as a heavy bunch of ripe grapes in need of a strong upright stake to keep them from being eaten by animals. See how Jesus instructed his disciples and followers, including YOU, to become a strong stake that can support his return in human form.
To be like Jesus, as full ripe fruit ready for heaven, you have to daily raise up your stauros. Then, when full of the sweet water of the Holy Spirit, you will follow Jesus.