ALL DRESSED UP NOW,
WHERE ARE WE GOING?
The Cross is our load we bear. We are going to our own golgothas, but on a trip, on this red carpet, to glory.
We tend to think of bearing a cross as something we reluctantly do until we ‘exchange it for a crown’, but the cross, though a ‘tough’ carry, is a gift, a wonderful gift for us to bear as we minister. We are dressed up in armor for the fight, in garments for the power and authority, and on a trip to the most wonderful destination in the universe.
If we want to walk with Jesus, the only way to do so, is to bear the cross He gives to us. The cross is a gift that is absolutely necessary to be borne, absolutely vital to our joint journey with Him, that we must examine this gift first.
Matthew 16:24-26 (KJV)
24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
If we want to ‘come after’ or walk with our Lord, a ‘cross’ must be ‘taken up.’ It will mean ‘losing’ what we wish we could carry. We would like the Lord to give us wealth, health, stocks and bonds, on this journey. Like the rich young ruler though, we are told to lay all other things aside, give them up, and follow our Lord.
Luke also quotes the Lord on this. Matthew was one of the 12 disciples, Luke was one of the 70 disciples. So, to both groups, Jesus shared this condition of walking with Him.
Luke 9:22-26 (KJV)
22 Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.
23 And He said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.
24 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for My sake, the same shall save it.
25 For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?
26 For whosoever shall be ashamed of Me and of My words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when He shall come in his own glory, and in His Father's, and of the holy angels.
Mark was a young man, and likely learned most of what he wrote from Peter. He heard this condition referred to, it was a continuing message that to walk with Jesus, we need to bear a cross and walk a carpet that is red, due to the blood of Jesus.
"Take up the cross, and follow Me."
We need to know that self-will would like to be our lord and master; but our cross is prepared and appointed for us by our Lord and Savior. We need to cheerfully accept it. The cross is our chosen badge, burden, way of life. This Jesus that we serve bids us to submit our shoulders to His easy yoke. Some would like to trample on it in vain-glory, or to fall under it in despair, or to run away from it in terror.
If we want to be a true follower of Jesus, we must be a cross-bearer. This pathway leads sometimes to sorrows, our own, or others to whom we minister. We carry that burden and weep in sorrows for the souls to whom we minister. Jesus did not carry a cross due to His own sins, but for the sins of others. We do have sins, ones to whom we minister have sins, and the sorrows of cross bearing is the reminder of the burdens we bear in interceding for ourselves and those others.
Surely you could not desire a better Companion on this walk. If the only way to walk with Jesus as our Guide is to be bearing a cross, then give me my cross. Jesus carried a cross, what better Fellow Traveler is there to walk with us as we carry the cross’ burdens?
The path we walk with this cross is a way of safety. We need not fear to tread its rocky ways, its hidden and unseen dangers, its thorny paths, if Jesis our Companion. The cross is not feathers, nor velvet, nor chocolate. The cross is heavy and painful to our shoulders. We know a man can carry it, for the Man of sorrows did. We, now, can take up our cross, and by the power of the Spirit of God, soon be in love with it. It is a gift that will be treasured, and the memory of this walk with Jesus will be one you would not exchange for all the treasures of this world. Jesus wills us to bow our spirits in submission to the His will. The path of carrying this cross led Jesus to a crucifixion. Our cross that He gives us as a gift, will also lead us to come calvaries.
Crucifixion was in used among the Egyptians, the Carthaginians, the Persians, the Assyrians, Scythains, Indians, Germans, the Greeks and the Romans. It was considered the most horrible form of death. Among the Romans the punishment was only used in the case of the vilest criminals, and threats to their society.
The mistreatment of Jesus was incredible, and hard to believe that they could enjoy doing these things to One Whom no one could find a charge that was true to incriminate Him as worthy of mistreatment. Here was One Who had healed the sick, raised the dead, taught love and mercy, and offered salvation to all who would accept, and they did these horrible things to Him.
"...stripped Him, put on a scarlet robe... crown of thorns, reed in His right hand (mock sceptre), bowed the knee and mocked Him... spit on Him... took reed and smote Him on the head... mocked Him, took robe off Him and put on His own raiment... led Him away to crucify Him.. found a man of Cyrene... Simon.. compelled to bear His cross..."
This was sport to these soldiers. They enjoyed the mistreatment. People may watch gory movies on television, and yet, it is far beyond that to treat people as these men did Jesus.
The four soldiers, under the command of a centurion, were detailed to each cross in those days. The centurion led the way carrying a white wooden board on which was written the crime of the one to be crucified. It was this sign, that Pilate ordered to be put upon the top of the cross. It angered the Jews, for it had no crime written upon it. For Jesus, it read- "The King of the Jews..." This was the charge they brought to Pilate, and there was no wrong of Jesus to put upon the cross, so Pilate had them carry a sign bearing the one truth about Jesus that caused these Jews to want Jesus dead.
Usually the longest way to the place of crucifixion was taken, to attract public attention, some feel that it was different here because of the nearness of the Passover. Jesus was followed by two thieves who each had their own soldiers.
The one to be crucified was made naked. He was put upon the cross of torture. The arms of the criminal were stretched along the cross-beams, and at the lower wrist of the hands was nailed to those beams. The feet were often nailed together over one another to the upright beam. The body was then secured by those three nails, so that it could not fall to the ground, when the cross was upright. The victim was not far off the ground, so that everyone who wanted could choose to strike or spit upon the criminal.
A death by crucifixion included all the pain and agony that could be possibly given a person. There was dizziness, cramps, thirst, starvation, sleeplessness, fever, public shame, torment, all intensified just up to the point at which they can be endured, but all stopping just short of causing unconsciousness.
The unnatural position made movement painful. The wounds emptied the body of its blood, the body became swollen, then emptied of all life. This was the death our Lord and Savior
The fracture of the legs was adopted as a custom to hasten death. One could no longer push the body up so as to allow a breath to be taken, and the loss of oxygen into the lungs brought death quicker.
"..come unto a place called Golgotha, i.e. to say, a place of a skull... gave Him vinegar... mingled with gall, when He had tasted thereof, He would not drink... crucified Him... parted His garments, casting lots... sitting down, watched Him there... set over His head the accusation, 'This is Jesus, the King of the Jews...' two thieves crucified with Him... they that passed by reviled Him, wagging their heads, ... If Thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross... chief priests, mocking Him, scribes and elders said, He saved others, Himself He cannot save... let Him come down from the cross and we will believe Him."
"...sixth hour (noon), darkness over all the earth till the ninth hour (3 p.m.)... 'Eli, Eli, lama, sabachthani...' = 'My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken Me (see Psalms 22)... cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost... veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom, earth did quake... rocks rent... centurion and they with him said, Surely this was the Son of God... many women were beholding from afar off."
This is the ‘cross’ our Lord carried. He offers us a ‘gift’ of a cross. It does not sound ‘appetizing’. We may be inclined in the natural to run from a life that has sorrows like Jesus bore on His cross. The life of a minister has many sorrows though. We bear on our lives, and in our spirits, burdens the world would never understand.
Paul suffered with his cross carrying. His willingness to suffer for his ministry, and still to continue.
II Corinthians 11:23-27
"labors... stripes above measure... in prisons... in deaths oft... five times I received 40 stripes save one... thrice was I beaten... once was I stoned... thrice I suffered shipwreck... a night and a day I have been in the deep... in journeyings often... in perils of waters... in perils by mine own countrymen... in perils of the heathen... in perils in the city... in perils in the wilderness... in perils in the sea... in perils among false brethren... in weariness and painfulness... in watchings often... in hunger and thirst... in fastings often... in cold and nakedness..."
Paul carried willingly the burdens of the churches to which he ministered.
II Corinthians 11:28-29
"Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?"
On this walk with Jesus, carrying his own cross, the gift of the Lord to him, Paul visions and revelations from the Lord.
II Corinthians 12:1
"It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory, I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell; God knoweth such an one caught up to the third heaven."
Along with the revelations, and messages from Jesus Himself, Paul also had the signs and wonders that proved he was walking with Jesus.
II Corinthians 12:12
"Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds."
In order to have a ‘walk with Jesus’, and to have the signs and wonders kind of ministry, we need to take up our crosses. The walk along this red carpet is a long walk, and our Savior has trodden it before. He is with us, and sometimes our cross seems hard to bear, but He is there to help us in the most difficult of times.