MARK 15:20-21: “After the soldiers finished making fun of Jesus, they took off the purple cape and put his own clothes back on him. Then they led him out to crucify him. A man named Simon from the city of Cyrene was coming ⌊into Jerusalem⌋ from his home in the country. He was the father of Alexander and Rufus. As he was about to pass by, the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross.” (GW)
OBSERVATION: Why am I carrying His cross? As we enter into this traditional season of Lent in the Christian Church we are reminded to reflect upon the condition of our own heart and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The observance of Lent among various Christian traditions is practiced differently. Some don’t observe it at all, while others forsake certain foods or activities during this period leading up to Good Friday and Easter Sunday. What is supposed to be a time of sincere reflection and contemplation has turned for many into simply another religious ritual that they are obligated to observe. In essence, like Simon the Cyrene, they feel forced to carry Jesus cross!
That phrase jumped off the page as I read it – “As he (Simon the Cyrene) was about to pass by, the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus cross.” I immediately remembered the words of Jesus when He said…
- “Then Jesus called the crowd to himself along with his disciples. He said to them, “Those who want to follow me must say no to the things they want, pick up their crosses, and follow me. Those who want to save their lives will lose them. But those who lose their lives for me and for the Good News will save them. What good does it do for people to win the whole world yet lose their lives? Or what should a person give in exchange for life?” (Mark 8:34-37 GW)
Jesus was very clear, the only pathway to life was to deny oneself, pick up the cross, and follow Jesus. Yet, Jesus never forced anyone to do this. It was always an invitation to enter into life with God by grace through faith. Self denial, saying no to sin, and ceasing to live solely for ourselves, is never forced upon us. To follow religious rituals will never save anyone, nor will it please God. We do not enter into the Kingdom through our works, we enter into the Kingdom by sincere repentance and faith. And as I reflect upon this I must reconsider my opening question –
“Why am I carrying His cross?”
There is really only one reason to pick up our cross and follow Him. It is love. It is not our love, but His love that has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. This is what Jesus was calling us to when He said – “Those who want to save their lives will lose them. But those who lose their lives for me and for the Good News will save them.” It is only when we lay down our lives in surrender to Jesus Christ, freely and willingly, that we enter into this life, that we become a partaker of His love. And it is this love that transforms us, empowers us, and guides us. It is only when we pick up our cross in response to His love that our worship becomes acceptable to the Lord.
- “I have loved you the same way the Father has loved me. So live in my love. If you obey my commandments, you will live in my love. I have obeyed my Father’s commandments, and in that way I live in his love. I have told you this so that you will be as joyful as I am, and your joy will be complete. Love each other as I have loved you. This is what I’m commanding you to do. The greatest love you can show is to give your life for your friends. You are my friends if you obey my commandments.” (John 15:9-14 GW)
This Lenten season I do not want to be encumbered with “religious practices” that have the appearance of piety, but are simply done because I feel forced to “carry the cross”. I want to look upon the life and sacrifice of Jesus anew and be drawn ever deeper into His love. I want the power of His love to transform, empower, and guide me. I want to freely, willingly, and joyfully pick up my cross and follow Jesus!
In Jesus Name!