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Bearing the Cross

Karen Stefacek, Children's Pastor

Andrea di Bartolo, Way to Calvary, c. 1400

Jesus takes up the cross:

As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, "Crucify! Crucify!"
But Pilate answered, "You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him."  John 19:6

In his weakened state, Jesus emerges to face the angry crowd and is met with this harsh cry for his demise. It wasn't a surprise to him. He knew what was coming and he willingly (amazingly) embraced it in order to rescue us.  Still, I wonder what he was experiencing. He was the innocent accused.

God has wired me to be a thinker over being a feeler. I lean toward thinking things through, am not usually impulsive, I process thoughts to view and manage life.  But when I consider the crucifixion of Jesus, I find I'm at a loss for words. Few thoughts fill my mind. I actually find it pretty difficult to write this blog. Instead, I tear up, sometimes weep, and experience deep, heart-felt feelings. It's an unruly mix of horror, gratitude, disbelief and child-like trust.

I'm not sure words ever adequately describe what Jesus did for us, what he went through for us, and what it means for us as he took up the cross.

But they shouted, "Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!"
"Shall I crucify your king?" Pilate asked.
"We have no king but Caesar," the chief priests answered.
Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.  So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha).  John 19:15-17

Jesus is carrying his own cross. He willingly takes it up. It's been God's plan from early on in human history. The time has come and Jesus says yes. When I consider the kind of love that must have motivated Jesus to do this, I'm reminded of my shortfall when it comes to love. Humans love by giving gifts, serving a need, exchanging loving words, etc. How many of us define love by dying?

My friend Becky recently had to ask her 18-year-old to leave their home because of his destructive behaviors. Her words were: "I've learned some new aspects of love through this experience. Love can be a death, a loss...with the hope of something better in the future for the one we love."  That is Jesus' intention toward us. John 15:13 shares this idea clearly: "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends."

Simon helps Jesus carry the cross:

A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross.  Mark 15:21

At this point, Jesus' strength is failing. Beyond the brutal whipping, the psychological pressure of knowing what's next must be an immense weight.  

Scripture affirms that Jesus is both fully God and fully human. Because he is God, he is able to give us the unspeakable gift: our great salvation. He alone can redeem our souls. He does not need our help. Nor are we able to help.  But here, we see the human side of Jesus. Jesus, the man, does need help in carrying this great wooden burden to Golgotha. Simon comes alongside Jesus to help him.  Jesus can relate to us humans in our need for help. He does not condemn us for it. He understands!

As we are called to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, we find that we, too, have a cross to bear in life. Our old nature must be put to death in order for Christ-likeness to emerge in our character.  Jesus spoke this truth in Luke 9:23: Then he said to them all: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me."

Help me do that today and every day, Lord!

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