Friday, March 29, 2024

Carrying the Cross

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24 NLT)

Pilate had done his dirty work. A garrison of soldiers gathered around Jesus and began to mock Him. They called Him a king and put a robe around His shoulders. And then they took a crown of thorns and pressed it into His head. They also gave Him a reed for a scepter and then struck Him with it.

Little did these soldiers know how easily Jesus could have gotten out of that situation. His armies were on standby. Angels were there, no doubt with swords drawn, just waiting for the word from Jesus.

Remember, when Simon Peter tried to defend Jesus with a sword in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus told him to put it away. He said, “Don’t you realize that I could ask my Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and he would send them instantly?” (Matthew 26:53 NLT).

In case you’re wondering how powerful an angel is, the Old Testament tells us that one angel killed 185,000 of Israel’s enemies (see 2 Kings 19:35; Isaiah 37:36). Therefore, thousands of angels could no doubt do some serious damage.

Jesus, however, took the beating. He took the abuse. He took the mockery. This is why He had come. It’s why He was born in Bethlehem. The wise men insightfully recognized this by offering Him the gift of myrrh, which was an embalming element. He was born to die.

The soldiers led Jesus away and forced Him to carry His own cross, which would have weighed three or four hundred pounds. So much for the anemic version of Christ that we often see depicted in religious art. Jesus wasn’t doing this as God; He was doing it as a man—a man who bled, suffered, and was in pain.

Understandably He fell under its weight. So, the soldiers forced a man named Simon, a Cyrenian, to carry the cross for Jesus. And for a few steps, we don’t how many exactly, Simon was able to relieve some of Jesus’ suffering by carrying His cross.

Now, perhaps Simon wasn’t all that thrilled about doing this. But some passages in Scripture suggest that Simon and his family became believers as a result. If I could travel back in time, I would go to this moment in history and carry the cross for Jesus, even for a few feet.

Of course, we can’t literally carry the cross like Simon did. But Jesus said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24 NLT).

This means placing God’s will above our own. It means taking our plans, our aspirations, and offering them to God. It means obeying God’s Word and standing up for Jesus when it isn’t popular. And it means loving God more than anyone or anything else.

To take up the cross and follow Jesus is a willingness to make any sacrifice He asks. Are you taking up your cross? You can and you should carry the cross today.

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