Summary: Whoever desires to come after me (1)let him deny himself, (2)take up his cross, and (3)follow me.
The Cross You Carry
During Lent we come face to face with the cross Christ died upon to save us from our sins. I preach about it, we read Scripture describing it, hymns we sing talk about it; each Sunday morning we face it here on the altar table. In the text read this morning, Jesus, exhausted and weakened by the beatings he’s endured, collapses under it weight
on the way to Golgotha. The Roman soldier in charge looks around at the crowd and sees strong-bodied Simon standing as a spectator to Jesus’ suffering. The soldier with
the law on his side orders Simon of Cyrene to pick up the cross and carry it. No choice
is offered, no fee is paid – it is a pure and simple case of conscription- take this cross and carry it- no ifs, ands, or buts –do it.
It doesn’t take much thinking to conclude that most of the crosses you and I bear today come about the same way- not necessarily by a soldier ordering us but because of life’s circumstances. There you were one moment carefree, going about your day to day business and then came a heart attack or stroke. At work it was the simple change of
a new boss who replaced your old boss, and the new boss is a horror to work for. Take a marriage where one partner is faithful and hardworking and the other runs around and is addicted to some bad habits. It could be something as simple as a child who never
seems to listen to a mother-in-law who must always have the last word. One thing is
obvious to you- you have a cross to bear not of your doing or liking and not with any near term end in sight. At least Simon of Cyrene knew that when he got
to the top of the hill this cross was leaving his shoulder. But Job you remember, good and righteous Job, struck down by the loss of his children, his wealth, his physical health; week after week, month after month sits in agony with his boils surrounded by a broken home and uncomforting friends. We know what eventually happens to Job but
what will eventually happen to us and the crosses we bear? Some people are quiet and resigned to the fact; others are constantly complaining. Simon never said a word, just picked up the cross and carried it; but Job’s suffering was much longer and more painful; he did not hesitate to voice his complaints and to question why he got something he didn’t deserve.
As we begin this season of Lent and face the cross, look for a moment at what the Church has done with the cross: stuck it on its’ altars and stain glass windows, put it in the hymns and prayers and creeds, has its people wear it as a religious symbol. The Church took this awful, ugly, brutal instrument of shame and death and dedicated it to God. The Bible says, Lord, what happened on the cross was your work and design done to save us. And so we sing:
In the cross of Christ I glory… When I survey the wondrous cross… Beneath the cross
of Jesus I fain would take my stand….Jesus keep me near the cross…
In Mark 8:34 Jesus says:
Whoever desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
From what Jesus said it is clear that He assumed you and I would have a cross to bear. There are three commands given: deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.
The three all go together; you can’t have one without the other two and still be on the path to the Kingdom of God. According to what Jesus commands it’s the person who doesn’t think she or he has a cross to bear that ought to be concerned. If everything is
just hunkey-dorey in your life and you don’t have a care in the world, you are off the mark. If you are walking with Christ, you are carrying a cross.
I mentioned earlier that the Church took the cross and dedicated it to the glory of God.
How do you do that with a spouse who has Alzheimer’s and no longer knows who you are or with a child who is slowing dying with a rare blood disease or with a family member who rubs you the wrong way but you must live with? How do I take the
cross I bear, and usually there is more than one, and dedicate it to the Lord?
The answer on how is given in the two other commands Jesus gave in following Him.
Whosoever would come after me, let him deny himself…