Core scripture: “And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it’” (Mark 8: 34-35).
Message: Some might see the cross as a peaceful symbol. Maybe even cute. Calm. The cross is anything but that. Jesus carried His cross to Calvary, the heavy wood splintering into his bloody back, scraping his skin raw. Crucifixion was brutal. Agonizing. Its purpose was to leave the victim humiliated, on display for all to see. The cross perfected a slow, torturous death. As we prepare our hearts for Easter, we are reminded of this story that took place over 2000 years ago. It becomes real when we look at the scripture above where Jesus asks us to carry our own crosses.
I wonder. What does that mean? To carry my own cross. To put that weight on my shoulders, not just when I want to but every … single … day. When I think of carrying my cross, I think of sacrifice. Dedication. Living God’s Word. Digging into it in the morning, and letting its principles guide me throughout the day. The cross took Jesus to a place He would have rather not gone, as seen in His prayer at Gethsemane. The cross does the same for us now. It takes us places we would not hope to go but where God knows we need to go.
Think of Jesus on that road to Calvary, doubled over in pain. He could not even go on! It was a faceless man the Roman soldiers called from the crowd, Simon of Cyrene, who helped Jesus. Jesus does the same for us today. He beckons us, saying, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). When we cannot go on, Jesus steps in.
This makes me think of ways Christian teachers can sacrifice themselves throughout the day, carrying our own crosses. To carry our cross is to enter our classrooms before the chaos of the day and pray quietly at our desks. It means choosing the positive over the negative. Looking for the good in kids to encourage them. It means staying away from gossip. Carrying our cross is treating each child like an individual, challenging them to rise to their potential. It means modeling Christlike behavior for them to follow. It is patience. Self-control. Love.
To carry our cross means when anger begins to bubble inside, we saturate it with a silent prayer. It means to find those Christian students among us and encourage them in their walks with Christ. It means finding that student who is struggling and telling them you are praying for them—and then actually following through, making the time to pray for them on your own time. To carry our cross means crushing apathy with intentionality. It is teaching life lessons that these children will cling to for a lifetime. It means modeling humility, love, and grace.
To carry our cross means asking forgiveness when we fall short. Bringing ourselves down a notch to show that we are so far from perfect. It means to show love when your flesh craves otherwise. To cling to hope when others lack faith. To be obedient to our superiors when all you really want to do is complain. To put on a smile when a frown seems more likely, trusting in God to take care of our needs. To carry our cross is to allow the Fruits of the Spirit to flow through our actions, glorifying God with every step we take.
The gauntlet has been thrown down. There is no better week to carry our cross than the week of Easter. Take up your own crosses with me. Forge ahead. Serve with passion. Spread His legacy, and as Matthew 5:16 reminds us, give all the glory to the Father. May your week of Easter be filled with opportunities to show others who He is.
Challenge: The congregation of our church was given a challenge last week. I want to throw down the same challenge for you. To prepare your hearts for Easter, set aside four consecutive hours of solitude. Take materials in which you can grow with God (ie Bible, journal, devotionals, Christian books, Christian music, etc), and see where God takes you. I plan on attempting this on Good Friday night from 6 to 10 pm.
Song application: “Carry My Cross” by Third Day
As long as I remember
I’ve been walking through the wilderness
Praying to the Father
And waiting for my time
I’ve come here with a mission
And soon I’ll give my life for this world
I’m praying in the garden
And I’m looking for a miracle
I find the journey hard but
It’s the reason I was born
Can this cup be passed on
Lord, I pray your will be done
In this world
So I’ll carry my cross
And I’ll carry the shame
To the end of the road
Through the struggle and pain
And I’ll do it for love
No, it won’t be in vain
Yes, I’ll carry my cross
And I’ll carry the shame
Cinema application: Watch the movie “Do You Believe?” It is a Christian movie that shows how the lives of multiple people come together under the power of the cross.
Below you will find two wonderful clips of the movie that connect directly to this week’s blog. The first shows a street evangelist carrying a cross who comes across a pastor. His question of do you believe in the cross of Christ is dismissed at first, but the evangelist makes the pastor reconsider his answer.
How would you answer this question?
The second clip comes later in the movie when the pastor decides to challenge his congregation to carry their crosses, leaving each one with a miniature wooden cross and giving an inspiring altar call. His speech sends chills down my spine, and I hope it does the same for you.
Journal/Accountability: Journal or talk with a trusted Christian friend about how you can carry your own cross on the job. Where are you tempted and falling short? How can you strengthen those weak areas?
Quote: “The cross is God’s way of taking away all of our accusations, excuses, and arguments. The cross is God taking on flesh and blood and saying, ‘Me too.’” (Rob Bell)
Bible story: Is there any question which Bible story should be read this week? Come on, people! Open your Bibles and read through John 18-20. Read it slowly. Aloud. To yourself. Think about the following questions as you read. How did Jesus submit to God’s will? How could He take the emotional turmoil of his disciples dispersing and the brutal physical pain of scourging and being crucified? Why did He go through this? How can we carry our own crosses to honor Jesus?
Bonus videos: I watch this video every year on Good Friday, and I guarantee it will amp you up for Easter weekend if you have never seen it before. Check it out below.
Sometimes we take for granted what Jesus went through for us. Yeah, he was whipped, nailed to a cross … yada yada yada. Watching this medical perspective of Jesus’ torture during his last hours will change your mind on that.
Need a little laugh after the seriousness of the last video? Yeah, me too. Check out Derwin Gray, aka the Easter Linebacker, as he shows us why we should celebrate Easter for the right reasons.
Prayer: God, we thank you for sending your son Jesus to die on a cross for all of our shortcomings. We thank you even more for empowering Him to conquer death so we can celebrate Easter. Help us all carry our own crosses to honor You. Amen.