Core scripture: “And He was saying to them all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it’” (Luke 9: 23-24).
Message: Would you like to hear an idea that will make you never want to sin again? Check this out. The reality of it hit me a few weeks ago while I was journaling about my sinful self, trying to get back to where God needed me to be. I realized that Jesus takes the blow for every sin I commit. That thought was not real until I began to imagine what He went through. Every slip up means a whip crack to His back, a nail driven into His wrists, a crown of thorns impaling His scalp. Jesus takes it all, not just from me but from everyone. Even those who do not know Him. The plethora of scars on His beloved body? Uncountable. Endless.
As we approach Easter next weekend, we must remember Calvary. Words fail to describe the power of that scene. If you can stomach it, get online and watch a free YouTube interpretation of the cross. There are plenty to choose from. Rent a movie from Netflix. Visually see the sacrifice He made for you. The whipping. The scourging. The crown of thorns. You’ll see the pain on His face, and to make it more overwhelming, realize that He really didn’t want to go there. At Gethsemane He prayed to take that cup of suffering away. But He followed God’s will. He went to the cross.
Along that road His body gave out, and rightly so. The physical pain of the previous 24 hours was too much to bear for Him. You may not like this if you get queasy over gory details, but to understand the sacrifice He made for us, we have to understand what specifically happened. Take the scourging for example. This was beyond brutal. The Romans would tie leather strips to a rod. Fastened to the end of each strip was two small balls of lead or iron, but sometimes sheep’s bone was substituted. They were designed to penetrate the skin, ripping flesh out, leaving the victim near death. (https://www.douglasjacoby.com/a-more-accurate-medical-account-of-the-crucifixion/)
As Jesus endured this, imagine the physical pain He must have felt. But it wasn’t over. It was FAR from over. Those who were crucified were made to carry their cross to the site of their death. The criminal had to carry the cross bar across their back, weighing anywhere from 75 to 125 pounds. The wood splintered into the flesh of the victim’s back. When Christ bore His cross, the weight was too much. He collapsed many times, more than likely being whipped all the more as He struggled. Hence the Romans forced a man by the name of Simon to pick up where Jesus left off and carry Christ’s cross to Calvary (Matthew 27: 32).
I wonder about Simon. Did he even know who Jesus was? Was he a seeker, wondering why the disciples followed Him? Or was he rolling his eyes at that moment, wanting to resist the Romans? Did Simon have any idea that he was physically acting out what Jesus discussed in Luke 9: 23-24? Probably not. But God had different plans. You see, God can take an ordinary man like Simon and allow him model what we as Christians need to be doing on a daily basis. We must carry our cross. Like Simon, we must bear the weight of the cross on our own shoulders, struggling yet persevering along the way.
What does that look like for you? How can we carry our own crosses in complete reverence for Jesus Christ? Every person will have different answers, but the universal truth is that it involves sacrifice. Maybe that is what we should ask. What are we sacrificing for Christ? In the classroom. At home. Behind closed doors when nobody is looking. Temptation surrounds us all; therefore, it is essential that we are wide awake to fend off the devil. 1 Peter 5: 8 states, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” I’m not sure about you, but I don’t want to be devoured! I want to persevere in my walk as a Christian and fight Satan. Daily.
That’s the part that gets me in our core scripture for today. Following Christ is not just a Sunday thing. It is not just a quiet time thing for 10 minutes in the morning on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. If you take Luke 9: 23-24 to heart, you realize a daily thing means it is a lifestyle thing. We must die to our sinful selves, put that cross on our shoulders, and forge through the day alert to any temptation coming our way. Be in tune with the power of Christ, the power of God, which is inside us all. It is the Holy Spirit, people, and if we listen to that still quiet voice inside us, we will be more than conquerors.
I have a challenge for you all below to reflect on, and I pray that you will take me up on it. If you have an idea for what the Christian teacher can do to bear the cross of Christ, please reply back. For me today, it is all about guiding my students to finish their research projects. It is about resisting the temptation to sit at my desk and check e-mail to do what I am paid to do. And then, following that short drive home, I need to check on the heart of my wife, give my best to my boys, and serve them with a glad heart. It is what Christ wants me to do. You go do the same. In the classroom, at home, or elsewhere, let your actions show whom you follow.
Challenge: Make a list of ways you can take up your cross daily at work and at home. Think humility. Think serving. Think about what Jesus would do if He were in your shoes. Once that list is created, do something with it. Act it out! Faith without actions means nothing. Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to accomplish them all in one week, but do pick a couple that God lays on your heart. Intentionally act them out, not for your own glory or praise but for God’s.
Song to bring it home: Look up Citizen Way’s song “Should’ve Been Me.” The theme of the song, discussed above, could not be more true. We deserved the punishment, yet Christ took it for us on the cross. Every sin—past, present, and future—is covered by His amazing sacrifice.
Prayer: Father, I thank you for your son who went to the cross for us. We don’t deserve that love, yet you pour it out freely through Him. May we carry our crosses to remember what He did for us. Amen.