Jesus told his disciples, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). However, Jesus couldn’t carry his cross and neither can you!
As Jesus carried his own cross to Golgotha, he became too weak and frail to carry it any more. When he reached the end of his strength, his cross was laid on someone the shoulders of someone else. The Bible doesn’t tell us how far Jesus carried his cross but we do know Simon, the Cyrene, was forced to pick it up and carry it the rest of the way to the place of crucifixion (see Matthew 27:32).
Okay, so big deal. What does this mean to us? Well, would our Lord make us do something he couldn’t do? Well, didn’t he say, “. . . anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27)? A cross is a cross, whether it’s wooden or spiritual. It’s not enough to say, “His cross was different—our cross is spiritual.”
Personally, it gives me a lot of hope to know that Jesus couldn’t take up his own cross. It encourages me to know that I’m not the only one burdened down to the ground at times, unable to go on in my own strength.
Jesus knew exactly what he was saying when he called us to “take up our cross and follow him.” He remembered his own cross and that another had to carry it for him. Why then would he ask us to shoulder a cross he knows will soon crush us to the ground? He knows all about the agony, the helplessness, and the burden that a cross creates. He knows we can’t carry it all the way in our own strength.
There is a truth hidden here that we have to uncover, a truth so powerful, it could change the way we look at all our troubles and hurts. It may sound almost sacrilegious to suggest Jesus didn’t carry his own cross, but it’s the truth.
God knows that none of his children can carry the cross they take up when following Christ. We want to be good disciples by denying ourselves and taking up our cross, but we seem to forget that that same cross will one day bring us to the end of our human endurance. Would Jesus purposely ask us to take up a cross that he knows will sap all our human energies and leave us lying helpless, even to the point of giving up? Absolutely yes!
That scares us. Christians don’t like to think about being absolutely helpless in the hands of our God. With all of our faith and with all of His grace, we still prefer to maintain some semblance of control to our lives. When difficulties arise, we like to think there are certain steps we can take, attitudes we can adopt, or positive confessions we can make to alleviate our anguish and be happy.
But Jesus warned us, “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). So he tells us to take up our cross, struggle on with it, until we finally learn that lesson. It’s not a happy message, but it’s not until our cross pushes us down into the dust that we learn the lesson that it’s not by our might or power or strength, but by his power. That is what the Bible means when it says his strength is made perfect in our weakness.
Oh Father, I so desperately want to get to the end of me. I want all my hope and dreams and desires to be inspired by your Spirit and wrapped in your Strength. I can’t carry my cross any further. Will you take my cross and carry it for me? I choose to follow you as you lead me, step-by-step.
Father, all these years I’ve let someone else seek you for me—I am through with that, I need to find you for myself. Your Son and my Savior, my precious Redeemer told me to “Come . . . and never thirst again.’ Somehow, in all my times believing in you, I’ve lost this truth. My Lord, show me your Glory! Let me taste, to touch with my own heart, to see with my own eyes the wonder that you are—this morning let it begin now.
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