JESUS BORE A CROSS FOR US,
TOLD US TO BEAR A CROSS TOO.
Matthew 16:24 (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.
Mark 10:21-22 (KJV)
21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.
22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.
This is quite a challenge, in fact, it is more than that, it is a command. We are to bear a cross. Crosses are heavy, and they are not just a weight, they are a place where we will be nailed, lifted up for the world to mock, and left to die there. Yet, there is also a resurrection for us. We do not bear these crosses to be defeated there, but we bear the cross to go to the victory Jesus has assured us by His cross.
Jesus was betrayed by a friend. This broke His heart, and the day that surpasses all previous days of history had begun. Jesus was led to Caiaphas’ house and was falsely accused. Then they took Him to Pilate, and there He was again falsely accused. Pilate questioned Him, and then Pilate sought a way to not have this obviously innocent man to be punished. He gave the people a choice between a feared and hated criminal, named Barabbas, and this Jesus, a healer and teacher of righteousness. The people chose to have Barabbas freed. Jesus was then beaten, spat upon, mocked, crowned with thorns.
JESUS’ TRIP TO GOLGOTHA
Crucifixion was not a mode of punishment of the Jewish people. The Maccabean King, Jannaeus, did use it once to kill over 800 in Jerusalem once. Even the Romans did not use crucifixion until the time of Caesar. During the last siege of Jerusalem 68 to 100 crosses a day were utilized for crucifixions. The soldiers began to amuse themselves with variations of the crucifixions. Crucifixion was of Phoenician origin, and Rome had later adopted it. The punishment was reserved for only those crimes of idolatry and blasphemy.
There were three kinds of crosses used. The Andrew’s cross was a large X, the crux commission was a T, and the Latin cross which was a t. Most believe it was the last one, for a sign was posted above the head, and this is only possible with the third one.
The location of the crucifixion was called ‘Golgotha’, which means ‘the place of the skull.’ Some think that ‘skulls’ littered the area, and therefore it was called that name. Yet, it was illegal to allow skulls to lay around, so it is likely due to the shape of the hill that the place was called ‘golgotha’. The site is located two to three minutes from the roadway, and it has a high, rounded, skull-like rocky plateau, with a sudden depression beneath, as though the jaws of a skull had opened.
The trip to Golgotha, for a crucifixion, began. Six soldiers led by a centurion walked with Jesus. One carried a sign, supposed to notify on-lookers of the crime of the criminal, but Jesus’ sign said, ‘This is Jesus, King of the Jews’. The walk was a long one, walking about the town, so many would see and know the fate of criminals. Jesus was weak from the 39 stripes, the mocking and jeering had weakened His stamina, and the long night of no sleep made Him unable to carry this heavy cross. He falls under the weight of the cross. The soldiers press into service a slave from Cyrene, named Simon.
The Old Testament had prophesied that the Messiah would be weak in His crucifixion time.
"My knees are weak from fasting; and My flesh has grown lean, without fatness– I also have become a reproach to them; When they see Me, they wag their head."
The city of Cyrene, from which Simon came, was a city of Libya, in North Africa. (latitude 32 degrees 40' North, longitude 22 degrees, 15' East) This city was therefore West of Egypt, and separated from Egypt by the Libyan desert. It was where Barca and Tripoli are now. This city was 2000 feet above sea level, and ten miles from the ocean. There was a high range of mountains to the south, (about 80 miles away). This range of mountains sheltered this area from the Sahara heat. The area has a great variety of climate and vegetation. The soil is very fertile. Cyrene was a Greek colony in 630 B.C. It was a center known for its great education. Many Jews were transported there in the dispersion. The Jewish occupants and the converts of such made frequent trips to Jerusalem for feast times. In Jerusalem, the Jews who had been raised in Cyrene, had their own synagogue (Acts 6:9). At the time of the persecution of Stephen, some Cyrenians converted to Christianity. Some of the Christian converts of Cyrene went to Antioch, and preached there the ‘Word, to the Jews only.’ (Acts 11:19)
Matthew 27:32 NAS
‘As they were coming out, they found a man of Cyrene, named Simon, who they pressed into service (compelled in the KJV, Greek, aggareuo, to be a courier, to press or draft into public service) to bear His cross."
Mark 15:21 NAS
" They pressed into service a passer-by coming from the country, Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear His cross."
Luke 23:26 NAS
"And they led Him away, they seized (KJV ‘laid hold upon’, Greek epilambanomai, to take hold of)a man, Simon of Cyrene, coming in from the country, and placed (Gk, epiththemi, imposed upon) on him, the cross, to carry behind Jesus."
Paul mentioned Rufus and his mother, as being in the church of Rome.
"Salute Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine."
So, this Simon, had two sons, Alexander and Rufus. ‘Alexander’ meant ‘defender of men’, and ‘Rufus’ meant ‘red, or reddish’. The name Rufus was a common ‘slave’ name.
Mark, at the time of the crucifixion of Jesus was a young person, and he is the one who mentions Simon as being the father of Alexander and Rufus. So, it is likely that Mark and these two boys were near the same age. Likely, Simon was in Jerusalem for the passover feast, and had brought his family with him. These two young persons became well known in the Christian church, and Mark seems to assume the readers all knew who these two were. The mother of the two sons, and wife of Simon, had obviously done some kindness to Paul, and Paul considered her like his own mother.
Since Rufus and his mother are mentioned in the list of those in the church at Rome, it is likely that they had been taken there in their ‘servitude’. This pressing into service by the Romans may have been made permanent, and this family was transported to Rome to serve further. In the lists of names of the servants of Nero, we do find the names of brothers, Alexander and Rufus.
So it seems that these two became household servants of the most wicked and despicable man of the age, Nero. As servants of the emperor of Rome, indentured to the most anti-Christian gentile of the time, these two not only had found Jesus as Savior, but were in the toughest place to serve their Lord.
Rufus, is called by Paul to be ‘chosen of the Lord’, so, he likely was one of the leaders of the church in Rome.
The results of Simon of Cyrene bearing the cross were that Simon himself was saved; Alexander and Rufus, his sons, were saved; the church at Rome was blessed with their testimonies; Rufus became a leader in the church at Rome; many in the household of Nero were saved (including the wife of Nero); and the story has been in the Bible for countless more to be blessed by it.
Our cross bearing will lead to souls being saved too, if we do it as we are called to do. Jesus had a purpose in His carrying of the cross, and He has a purpose in telling us to do the same. The first one to bear the cross of Jesus, was this Simon of Cyrene. He bore it, and his family became part of the early church. Many have been blessed by his story, and by the following events due to his carrying of the cross. The wounds of the cross we bear, are great. So are the benefits of carrying this cross.
HIS ARRIVAL AT GOLGOTHA
Jesus arrived at Golgotha around 9 a.m. First, the upright of the cross was planted into the ground. It was not high, but the victim’s feet were only a foot or two off the ground. The lips could be moistened with a sponge attached to a short stalk of a hyssop. The transverse part of the cross was placed on the ground, and the victim was laid upon it. The arms would be bound, then ropes were used to draw up the victim to the upright piece.
In the case of Jesus, his hands and feet were also nailed to the wood.
Women in Jerusalem collected money to pay for strong wine with myrrh in it, to deaden the pain. Jesus refused this.
Two others were crucified on this day. One was to the right of Jesus, the other was to His left. There was a sign at the top of the cross of the Lord Jesus, written in Latin, in Greek, and in Aramaic, stating that this was ‘Jesus, the King of the Jews. This was meant by Pilate to be a mocking of those who had pressed him to crucify this man he had deemed innocent of any real crime.
Before the nailing, the soldiers gambled over the garment of Jesus.
HIS BETRAYAL, LEFT DESERTED, FORSAKEN, ALONE
Isaiah 53:5-8 (KJV)
5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not his mouth: He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth.
8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare His generation? for He was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was He stricken.
Jesus was oppressed, afflicted, betrayed by a friend, led as a Lamb to slaughter, falsely accused, forsaken by all. The lives of we who today bear the cross that Jesus gave us leave us ‘wounded’, ‘bruised’, ‘oppressed’, ‘afflicted’, ‘stricken’, and also feeling like a ‘lamb’ brought to slaughter. These afflictions are real and at times, the pain is felt deep through our souls.
The supreme religious council had plotted and planned His death. An insulting price of a slave was paid to a betraying friend to secure the arrest of Jesus. A few days before, all of His disciples had declared to ‘never forsake’ nor betray Him. The darkest hours of His earthly life had come, and crowds had cried out, ‘crucify Him’, though’ He had never done any of them harm.
The words of others, crying out, to or about us, hurt us deeply. Jesus felt the pain of unkind, unloving words. We too, bearing this cross He gave for us, feel the hurt of cutting words.
HIS DYING WORDS
‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’
While they were casting lots for His garment, these unwitting helpers of the crucifixion, found that Jesus had love and mercy for their part. Most, if not all of us, would have trouble speaking mercy to terrorists who were torturing us, due to orders from their superiors. Even when others unwittingly do less wrong to us, as braking their car on the freeway, unaware of how close we are behind them, or someone who steps out into our way in a supermarket aisle, often gets a dirty look, or cruel words. We find it hard to be merciful to even those who are unwitting accomplices to things that hurt us in even minor ways. Jesus was ‘nailed’ to that cross, and the cross He gives us holds us back too, with spiritual nails. We hang upon it, we cannot walk away and hide. It is real, and we must let it happen. We must speak forgiveness, and let them continue in their crucifixion of us.
"I thirst." (John 19:28)
The heat of the day, the loss of so much blood, were natural causes of this thirst. They offered Him vinegar, mingled with gall. This was a stupefying potion, of sour wine, frankincense and myrrh. They used it to alleviate the sufferings by making the victims insensible to the pains.
Proverbs 31:6-7 (KJV)
6 Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.
7 Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.
Christ was suffering, but He had wanted something for His thirst, not something to intoxicate Him.
Psalm 69:20-21 (KJV)
20 Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.
21 They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
Jesus refused to make this sacrifice to be easier. He had come to bear our sins, to suffer and to die. He did just that, and did not intoxicate Himself to make the pain easier.
There are times that Christians have sought to alleviate the pain and thirst by taking prescription drugs, alcoholic beverages, eating binges, etc. to alleviate the inner pain. It is not wise to do any of those things. The thirst is better than the remedies. We must keep our mind alert, even if the pains and thirst are seemingly unbearable.
"My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’
This is a quote from Psalms 22. (Eli, Eli, lamah sabachthani). It could have been better translated as ‘My God, My God, to what sort of persons hast Thou left Me?’
This is a reference to the obstinate nature of the crucifiers. Jesus was astonished at the wickedness of mankind, of the heartless, cruel, uncaring nature of those who had likely killed many in this way. Their minds were uncaring of the pain and suffering which they had put upon these victims.
Jesus would see someone suffering hunger, blindness, leprosy, lameness, etc. and would immediately be moved with compassion. Yet, here, with pain and suffering, these people were mocking, reviling. Jesus was shocked by this evil. We sometimes are shocked by the evil we see in the world, and even sometimes see in the churches. When death would come to us, we would not want our enemies present to heartlessly mock our suffering pains.
We get shocked at the evil in this world. They can mock we Christians for righteousness, and then rape, murder, abort, steal, and blaspheme, with nary a conviction of guilt. We feel trapped in this sinful world, and it hurts.
"Today, thou shalt be with Me in paradise." (Luke 23:43)
Marcion and Manichees left this verse out of their copies of the gospels. Some find it hard to describe how Jesus could allow this man, a criminal till the very end, to be allowed to go to the abode of the righteous. Many still today find it hard to admit the mercy of God came come in the last few dying moments of a repent-er of sins. They want to have ‘good works’ to be seen, to justify the mercy given. The Lord wanted this story in the Word, so we cannot deny that His mercy is unfathomable, unexplainable, and totally not like mankind’s mercy.
This thief that was given mercy was named ‘Titus’. He repented. He succumbed to the Lord’s love. Early church writings tell us this man was a brother to ‘Luke’. He had a reputation for evil and hatred, and it was hard for Christians of that day to see Jesus, in a moment, forgive all the evil they knew of this man.
This man met Jesus in ‘paradise’. This is where Jesus went, in the heart of the earth, for three days.
Matthew 12:40 (KJV)
40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
Jesus ministered to those in paradise, who had been awaiting His sacrifice so they could then ascend to heaven.
Ephesians 4:8-10 (KJV)
8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.
9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?
10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)
When Jesus ascended, those like Abraham, Moses, and other saints that had been waiting for the price for sin to be fully paid by the blood of Jesus, were taken to heaven. They had been waiting in the part of sheol called paradise.
Psalm 16:10-11 (KJV)
10 For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell (sheol, the inner earth where hellfire, paradise, and the abyss are located); neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
11 Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.
Paul had been shown this place, after his stoning. There he had seen things he could not adequately describe and had to have a thorn in the flesh to make him able to not think only of the glories of paradise.
2 Corinthians 12:1-7 (KJV)
1 It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.
2 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.
3 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth
4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
5 Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities.
6 For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me.
7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
This was a wonderful place for the thief to sit down and get to know Jesus, his Savior. This place, filled with saints of the Old Testament, having there Jesus that all were rejoicing in His work for them, and the anxious anticipation of all those there of finally getting to ascend to heaven. What a glorious place to meet Jesus.
We will find the Lord leads us to some who would not be our natural choice of friends, with which to fellowship. Some who do find the Lord from our witness will be ones who did horrible things in their sinful life. I have had ‘satanists, KKK henchmen, come to Jesus. It was beautiful to see God change such people. Yet, in the natural, many Christians would rather avoid those kind of converts, and preach only to the moral, the rich, the powerful leaders. NO! God leads us to hungry hearts, and seldom are the latter group ‘hungry’ for God. The criminal, the hated, blatant sinners get hungry for help, and we can more easily win them, than most any other group. We who carry the cross, will find on either side of us, as Jesus did, on one side a sinner who mocks, and on the other side, a sinner who accepts Jesus.
"Woman, behold your son... Behold, thy mother." (John 19:26)
Jesus loved Mary. The earthly work was to be done in 43 more days. After His resurrection, before His ascension, Jesus was going to be very busy. So, Jesus assigns John the special privilege to be like a son to Mary. Mary was likely about 46 years old at the time. John was the one who would not face martyrdom, and he was going to live many more years. Therefore, this loving apostle was a good choice of the one to watch over Mary’s welfare. John and his brother James had been known as ‘sons of thunder’, but their natures had greatly changed. Jesus knew that John would gladly take responsibility.
While carrying our cross, we will still have family concerns. Jesus bore the concern for His mother. We will have siblings, children, a mate, parents, etc for whom we also will have to bear some responsibility. This concern and need to address their needs, is a part of bearing our cross. We may only intercede, we may witness, we may have to call for help from others, as did Jesus utilizing John to aid His mother.
"It is finished"
This is in the passive perfect tense. That means Jesus was speaking of the work the Lord had done here, not the work He was doing. God had planned to offer a Sacrifice for sin, and He sent Jesus to be that Lamb. Jesus’ work was to live sinless so He could be that Perfect Sacrifice, and could then be resurrected and conquer sin and death. God had His part of that work now finished, in the Sacrifice. Now, Jesus is finishing His work at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us. The Spirit is finishing His work in leading mankind toward Jesus, and empowering the church for the works they need to do. The Father’s work was finished, here, in the sacrifice that He had provided. Salvation was now available.
Reconciliation means ‘to restore favor’. God had been offended by sin. Mankind is the offender. Christ is still being our Mediator. The blood of an innocent Sacrifice has been presented and offered. The remission of sins is now possible.
Romans 3:24-25 (KJV)
24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
Romans 5:10 (KJV)
10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
The Sacrifice part is finished. Our part is not finished till the rapture, resurrection part. We have a part to continue therein. We have a mission to complete, to do the works of the Lord, winning souls to the kingdom.
Jesus finished His work, as He hung nailed to the cross. We often get in a hurry for God to get us off our cross, we want the ‘throne’ for now. Yet, our work will be finished here, not while sitting on the throne, but while hanging on the cross we have been given.
‘Into Thy hands, I commend My Spirit.’
Jesus had said that no one would take His life, but He would lay it down, and then be able to take it up again.
John 10:17-18 (KJV)
17 Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.
18 No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.
What love! Jesus died for us, and ‘no greater love’ is possible than what Jesus had for us. He died for us, while we were totally undeserving.
Yes, Jesus bore a cross for us, paid that great price for us. Simon the Cyrenian carried it for a time, but it was Jesus Who died upon it for us. We need to bear a cross also, as we were instructed to ‘take up our cross and follow Him.’
Galatians 6:14 (KJV)
14 But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
It is by this wondrous work of the Lord, done on that cross, that we crucify the world unto ourselves, and crucify ourselves to this wicked world. We have a ministry of crucifixion, that depends totally on the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus. His work makes our work possible.
Taking up the cross of Jesus and glorying in it, and in what the cross has done for us, creates two more crucifixions. If you truly glory in the cross of Jesus, you will crucify the world and its sin to you, and you will crucify yourself and your cravings and desires for the world. We need to make the world ‘dead’ to us, and make ourselves dead to our own desires to be like the world.
In place of those, we glory in the cross of Jesus. He bore that cross, and then was placed upon it, and it bore Him. He laid down His life, shed His blood, brought victory to us, gave us the right to a resurrection too, by what He did for us on the cross..
With our cross, that we each bear, we need to realize too that there is no miracle, unless we have a problem. There are no victories, unless we enter the battle. There is no resurrection, without cross bearing.
The early church often portrayed Jesus as a Shepherd, often holding a cross instead of a crook. Soon, early depictions of Jesus showed the cross with a Lamb upon it. Jesus is the Lamb of God, Who bore a cross for us, taking our place as the Sacrifice of God, paying the price for our sins.
THE OFFENSE OF THE CROSS
IS TO BE SHARED BY US NOW
"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. For whomsoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever will lose his life for My sake, the same shall save it."
"Then is the offense of the cross preached."
The offense of the cross has never ceased. To suppose that it would - is absurdity. The religion of Jesus is the most peaceful, mild, benevolent, and yet history has shown it to be the most attacked and hated. The sinners are offended by the cross. The times of the early church were well-acquainted with the cross. The worst of sinners were put upon crosses and were made to die the most humiliating deaths upon crosses. To be told that the Savior of the world, the Son of God, the Messiah, was put in such a humiliating place for our sins was repugnant to those of that day. It offended them.
Mankind has never liked to admit that he has sinned.
"For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God."
Mankind deserves death, but they are unwilling to admit it.
"The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life."
Mankind is too proud, and wants to cover sin, and wants to call their sins to be mistakes. The cross humbles mankind. To defend against the humbling effect of the cross, mankind takes offense, and is angered by the cross. They consider it to be foolishness.
I Corinthians 1:18-24
"preaching of the cross is foolishness to them that perish."
People of the early church period wanted to think they could save themselves. People today think likewise. Government cannot save your soul. The United Nations cannot save your soul. No charity can save your soul. Turning over good leaves cannot save your soul.
Sinners of the early church period protested the religion of the cross, and wanted to proclaim that they could be "all right" if they did their best. Any who believe otherwise, are persecuted. Believers are called "old fashioned", "fanatics". Believers in the cross are criticized, called 'weak minded'.
I John 3:13
"Marvel not if the world hate you."
Many in Christianity today have also been offended by the cross. Many have done away with songs and sermons on the blood, and on the cross. They reject doctrines on Christ's death and sacrifice for us. They do not want the cross, for they do not want to admit there is a real hell, or sin that could send them there. So many churches preach a bloodless, cross-less gospel. They substitute "social change", "riot", and "marches".
Those in the early church soon began to wear small crosses on a chain or ring about the neck. They loved the cross, they valued what it meant. They wanted to wear such a symbol. Yet, the Lord wants to have us to do so much more than wear just a symbol. The Lord has to us to "take up a cross, and follow Him."
Though the world hated the symbol, though the whole idea of a Savior, a Messiah Who would die such a horrible death was repugnant to mankind, still the saints of the early church proudly wore a small cross around their neck. It meant reproach in greater measure, for it identified them to the world as a believer in the Jesus Who died upon an old wooden cross as a horrible criminal would.
In the Psalm quoted by Jesus while He hung upon the cross, we see how He was feeling at that time.
"But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of people."
We all must bear a cross for our Lord. This will involve suffering, agony, pain, sorrow, etc.
"I was a reproach among all mine enemies, but especially among my neighbors, and a fear to mine acquaintance; they that did see me without fled from me. ...For I have heard the slander of many: fear was on every side; while they took counsel together against me, they devised to take away my life."
Because of the cross, because of the life we must live for the Lord, and because of the message we must proclaim to this world, we find a cross that is difficult to bear. Our friends will reproach us, our friends will even lie against us, misunderstand what others tell them about us, will believe every lie told about us. They will take counsel against us, plot against us.
"Mine enemies speak evil against me, When shall he die, and his name perish?"