Sunday, February 16, 2014

Carry Splintery Wood

Carry Splintery Wood
February 17, 2014
Luke 9:23  "Then he said to them all: 'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.'"

Picture, for a moment, Jesus walking on the earth during His time period, with all the traditional scenery behind Him.  He had a heart full of hope for mankind as He brought a message of salvation, many people respecting Him, even worshiping the ground He walked upon.  In your mental picture He might be wearing a white tunic or a robe, maybe some sandals.  He might be carrying a sack made out of animal hide and His own skin toned darker from years in the sun.  There might be camels and donkeys in the back ground and women carrying baskets of bread going about their daily lives.

Then picture for a moment, the hours leading up to his death when He was forced to carry His cross up to the place of His impending crucifixion.  People were standing there jeering at Him as He faltered under the heavy weight of the wooden cross when they toured Him through town up toward the hill.  They spat on Him, even took punches at His face.  Humiliated, He struggled, his body weak and feeble from enduring torture.  His once white tunic now stained red with His own blood.  He fell once, twice to the ground under the weight of His cross.  The fifteen minute walk with the cross upon his back probably took closer to an hour, the sharp splinters of the wood digging into His flesh during the painful execution march.

It isn't a pretty picture, watching Him walk toward His impending death, despite just days earlier living a seemingly idyllic life of a healing prophet and rabbi, teaching a message of hope.  His life was far from His own, since He came to earth to serve those around Him and then pay the price for their sins with His own blood.  He spent His whole life in service to everyone else and then at the last minute, sacrificed everything for them when they didn't deserve it.  And this, this is what WE are to do for our own fellow man.  We are to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and serve mankind in like manner.  Scriptures says we are to take up our cross daily and follow Him.

The words, "take up your cross daily and follow [Christ]," don't exactly have the right meaning unless you are reading them in full context.  Some would argue that to "take up your cross" means to live a life of self sacrifice.  While this is partially right, there is more to it than that.  Remember the imagery in your head of Jesus walking toward the place of the crucifixion with the weight of the wooden cross over His shoulders, blood dripping down His brow, hindering His vision.  This is the imagery you should have in your head when you read the words, "take up your cross daily and follow [Christ]."  As Christ marched toward His execution, He was bearing the weight of the world on His shoulders, humiliated and beaten, debased and despised.  This is closer to the full context of "taking up your cross."  Your life as a Christian is to give your life to your fellow man in an effort to save their souls.  All the while, the world will hate you, humiliate you, debase and reject you, even punish you for things you didn't do.  They will accuse you falsely and proclaim your life a waste.  But still you are to march toward your impending execution, refusing to raise your own hand to potentially save your own skin.

If I were to write my own translation of the phrase, "take up your cross....," it might read something like this: endure your most feared humiliation on a daily basis and accept physical and emotional injustice as acceptable if it means bringing salvation to those around you.  Carrying your cross daily will leave a lot of splinters in your shoulders, and it might even be somewhat bloody.  This is far from the idyllic lifestyle of a prophet and a rabbi.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Matt 16:25, Mark 8:35, Luke 17:3

No comments: