Text: Luke 14:25-35 & 23:26, John 19:17, Mark 15:21
by Grace Applebee, Taunton Church of the Nazarene, United Kingdom
Have you ever wanted something so much that you could almost taste it, but it was beyond your financial means? When I went back to Kenya in October 2000 I had to look for a new vehicle to drive as I had sold my previous car. I looked at various four-wheel drive vehicles, but one caught my eye—it was a Land Rover Freelander— display model in a lovely aqua colour! But I knew that if I bought it then all my money in my ministry account would be gone—I would really have to trust God for every penny for the future. It seemed wise to me to not spend that much money on one item, but it was almost new, it was just the right size, it was my favourite colour, but in the end I didn’t get it but bought what seemed to be a very comfortable older vehicle—a Land Rover Discovery. The cost was within my price range and I had money left over to think about other needs I might have during the next four years. Sometimes in life we think we have made the right decision, but later we find out that perhaps we should have done something different. Hindsight is always better. In our spiritual lives we need to consider as we begin this season —-what was the cost of carrying the cross?
1. The Cost to Jesus
Who was he? The sacrificial Lamb of God. The very day on which Jesus came into Jerusalem on the donkey—Palm Sunday was the day on which the sacrificial lamb was traditionally chosen for the feast of Passover. According to Jewish tradition dating from the second century or earlier Passover lambs would be hung up on iron hooks and flayed. It is very interesting as we look back to the significance of Jesus being our Passover lamb—sacrificed for our sin that this should have become one of their traditions.
It cost him everything– picking up and carrying his cross meant that before he did it he had been willing to face death where his own desires were concerned—we see that in the garden of Gethsemane.
He was ridiculed even before carrying it, and beaten and spat upon. John specifically says that he carried his own cross although it was maybe for not the whole journey as the other Gospel writers say that Simon was made to carry it. It would have been the horizontal beam of the cross that he carried as the ten foot stake was left in place for regular executions. Near the top of the vertical stake there was a groove into which the horizontal beam was inserted once the prisoner had been tied or nailed to it. Carrying it meant that he was branded as a criminal by the authorities—just as today you might see a man walking to the execution chamber in the case of capital punishment “Dead man walking” you might say. There was no stay of execution, no appeal, no turning back! It was the end of the road as far as the world was concerned—and certainly as far as Satan was concerned—he must have been ecstatic!
They forced Simon to carry it for him presumably because he was weakened as he had lost all his physical strength through enduring the beating and having had no food and he was carrying the burden of our sins as well as his own cross.
2. The Cost to Simon of Cyrene
Who was he? Cyrene is today known as Libya in North Africa. There was a large Jewish population there and Simon is a Jewish name. As it was a feast time he was not coming in from working in the fields (they were not allowed to work during feast days), but perhaps he was arriving a bit late for the feast of Passover. It was not something he offered to do—he was forced to do it by those in authority. Roman soldiers as conquerors of Palestine could demand anything of anyone and command them to carry anything for them. They would not have wanted to do it themselves because it would have associated them with the crime he had committed. He would have had to put down anything else he was carrying so that he could carry the cross for Jesus—it was not a lightweight item of wood. He would have had to concentrate on just that one thing in such a crowd of people. He may have had to leave behind any members of his family who were with him—it says that he was the father of Alexander and Rufus—we don’t know how old they were, but they were obviously known by their names by the time the Gospel story was written down. It seems that because he was recorded in this way—identifying him and his family that they probably had some later significance in the history of the early church. He was included in the task of redeeming the world—from a different country and yet showing that Christ came to save not only the Jews of Palestine—but those from Africa and beyond. He may have been one of the first people on whom the blood of Christ was spilled if as John says Jesus had carried the cross before he was commanded to.
3. The Cost to us
Carrying our cross means admitting that we are sinners. Remember his yoke is easy and his burden light—he tells us to come to him if our burden is too heavy and he comes under that cross with us and helps us carry it! I often thought about that Land Rover Freelander over the 4 years I had my Discovery—the first time it broke down and I had to spend $4,000 to get the engine rebuilt. The next time it overheated and I was stranded by the side of the road, the times I had flat tires and limped into the nearest garage or had to call friends to come and help me change one. Numerous other times when the windscreen leaked, I needed a bucket to collect drips as I drove along! If I had only given all the money I had and got that Freelander, I might never have got into those horrible situations and spent so much money that I thought I was saving for other needs! My question is this “Do you really want to be his disciple?” If you do then you know what you have to do—if not, then you can go on living life the way you think is best, but you will never be a true disciple if you are not willing to count the cost of carrying the cross as Jesus did, – It will cost you everything! It means that you will have nothing in reserve! You will have to trust God for the guidance you need in your life—every moment of every day! But just imagine the honour Simon must have felt days later as he heard about the resurrection and saw the Church of Jesus Christ grow and permeate the whole Roman Empire! I can hear him saying, “I carried Jesus’ cross!”
Are you willing to share his reproach, no matter what the cost, put everything down and take up your cross and follow Him? We carry our cross willingly—not being forced as Simon was, but just as Jesus carried his willingly. His blood was spilled so that we could carry our cross and know that already our sins are forgiven by Him carrying his and dying on his cross.
Leaving personal desires behind—we cannot serve the world and Jesus— sitting on the fence is not something we can do if we want to follow him and carry our own cross—we must die to our desires before we pick up the cross and face the fact that we cannot live our Christian lives in our own strength. It must be all or nothing! The cross is the place where our horizontal desires meet God’s vertical desires for our lives and we are willing to give it all up in order to live for him—only then can we really live! This is what Jesus really meant in Luke 14 when he said we must “hate” our families and our own desires. The term probably meant, “love less” rather than really hate them. Jewish Hyperbole often used words to overstate the situation when emphasis was needed. In a society where they were taught to honour parents it would seem that Jesus is requiring a lot of his disciples. Jewish teachers often required devotion from their pupils, but only God would dare to ask for such absolute commitment.
Jesus specifically says that we must carry our own cross. Simon carried Jesus’ cross for him but what does that mean for us? Only you will know what it means for you. Maybe it means making your first commitment to Jesus and asking him to come into your life, maybe it means giving up your total rights to all areas of your life— what many call “sanctification” or asking Him to be the Lord of your life after years of trying to run your Christian life your way! In order to be a true disciple—this is the only way Jesus said we can do it!
Putting down those things that would get in the way of us carrying it—Lay aside the weight that easily besets us– just as Simon needed to as he carried Jesus’ cross for him. What is your weight or luggage you are carrying that causes you not to be able to pick up the cross. Remember Jesus died to his own desires and put them down before he picked his cross up. It is an act of the will—a decision only you can make. But we do have the power of the Holy Spirit to help us in our weaknesses.
Conclusion: The Reward for Carrying our Cross
He will be Jesus’ disciple—it is a condition of true discipleship, which the disciples themselves at that point had not yet understood or learned.
Phil: 4:12 Contentment—whatever state we find ourselves in, we learn to be content as Paul said in this scripture. Jesus’ promise to the first disciples—if we do follow—”Follow me and I will make you fishers of people.”
We will have a long line of cross carriers coming after Jesus as a result of our obedience to his call to “take up our the burden of our sin and thoughtlessness. Is it possible for us to act in the same way? Because he did it—we, at a time of extreme stress are able to cry out to him who fully understands, and ask for His help to act and react in such a Christ-like way. We see after the time of Jesus that many who did just that.
Remember his yoke is easy and his burden light—he tells us to come to him if our burden is too heavy and he comes under that cross with us and helps us carry it!
Think of the way that Paul and Silas were imprisoned and yet they were able to tell the Philippian jailer how he could be saved—they were more concerned about his spiritual state than their own physical injuries. Look at many of the old time Christian martyrs—or even one of the more modern ones that we often don’t hear about.
I often thought about that Land Rover Freelander over the 4 years I had my Discovery—the first time it broke down and I had to spend $4,000 to get the engine rebuilt, the next time it overheated and I was stranded by the side of the road, the times I had flat tires and limped into the nearest garage or had to call friends to come and help me change one and numerous other times when the windscreen leaked and I needed a bucket to collect drips as I drove along! If I had only given all the money I had and got that Freelander, I might never have got into those horrible situations and spent so much money that I thought I was saving for other needs!
“Do you really want to be his disciple?” If you do then you know what you have to do—if not, then you can go on living life the way you think is best, but you will never be a true disciple if you are not willing to count the cost of carrying the cross as Jesus did, – It will cost you everything! It means that you will have nothing in reserve! You will have to trust God for the guidance you need in your life—every moment of every day! But just imagine the honour Simon must have felt days later as he heard about the resurrection and saw the Church of Jesus Christ grow and permeate the whole Roman Empire! I can hear him saying, “I carried Jesus’ cross” Are you willing to share his reproach, no matter what the cost, put everything down and take up your cross and follow Him?