Acts 1 depicts the story of 12 men who gave up everything to follow Jesus. They gave up their livelihood, their reputations, their family relations, and their careers — all of it was stunted by following Jesus. Following Jesus meant going wherever, whenever, and however Jesus went. For three years, the disciples did this as they followed Jesus.
These men followed Jesus partly because they thought He was going to establish His kingdom on earth. They kept waiting for Jesus to overthrow Caesar’s influence over Jerusalem, setting up His throne and forming His cabinet. But when Jesus was tried and killed, the disciples’ expectations were shattered. It is easy to be a disciple when you get what you expect; it is not so easy when what you want is no longer there.
These disciples saw who they wanted to be king, but they could not see the cross the King had to bear. The cross exemplifies the toll leadership takes on a person and everything that comes with that. The king and the cross are interchangeable and inextricably connected. Every king has to bear a cross, whether it is visible or not. To be somebody, you have to carry a cross.
The disciples did not understand that every development of leadership, prosperity, or notoriety — every degree or accomplishment of any kind — comes with a cross. If you want to go up, it will cost you something. Most people would rather have the peace than the power, and the decision is difficult to make. The disciples did not realize the cost Jesus would have to pay to be King, for it was massive.
Set yourself in the disciples’ shoes during Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion. Imagine how traumatic it was to see a leader they had been with for years and had dedicated their lives to be stripped naked, beaten like a thief until his ventral was exposed, spat on, hung high, stretched wide, nailed to a cross, dying in the hot Jerusalem heat.
If it were your pastor or a leader you respected, you too would feel that trauma. The powerful now appeared powerless; the overcomer looked like He had been overcome. Great trauma and confusion can affect those who watch, and not just the victim alone. There is a cross with every crown.