Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Take Me to the Cross

Recently, I was asked to speak at a youth event-a bonfire.  It was the first function for the youth group, so I was honored to attend.  Before the event, the youth pastor asked if I would speak on the topic, “Take Me to the Cross.”  So, I agreed to follow her instructions for the event. As I started to meditate on the phrase and study the scriptures, I couldn’t get my mind off a man named Simon.  Who is Simon?  Simon was the man who carried the cross of Jesus. (Luke 23:26; Mark 15:21; Matthew 27:32)  A man on a simple journey – with no agenda; he is just passing by.  He has just left the countryside, walking into a peaceful journey until he encounters Jesus.  Oh, who wouldn’t want to personally meet Jesus!  Yet, may I remind you Jesus isn’t preaching to a multitude, healing the sick, or raising the dead.  Jesus is on the road that’s leading to death, a hill called the “Skull.”  A place of death for horrible criminals to face their punishment for their crimes committed.  Yet, at the end of Simon's peaceful journey, he is placed in the center of a road to a crucifixion.

 Life will take us on several different journeys, some we don’t want to walk down.  Yet, if we truly want to walk with Jesus, we have to follow the road to Calvary.  Nevertheless, I am wondering what’s going through Simon’s mind?  Was he trying to figure out the charges of Jesus?  Why is heading to the Skull?  Although the cross is a public, humiliating, and horrific death for our Savior to suffer, He did.  Before the cross is placed in the ground, Simon got to visually see the aftermath of the beating of Jesus.  He was completely unrecognizable as a person, “Who could do this to another person?”  The back of Jesus is scared from the repeated whips tearing His flesh apart.  His face is beaten, bruised, and bloody from the thorns upon His brow.  “What did this man do?” Simon had to wonder as his eyes met the Savior’s.  As Simon carries the cross down the road, he hears the voices of others.  He hears the women weeping and wailing as they follow Christ on the road.  As he continues to carry the cross, he sees the soldiers with their swords.  The soldiers are reinforcing the decision of the government to punish this criminal.  Other voices are yelling for Jesus to be crucified but the voice of Jesus is comforting towards the women.  “How can you comfort people on the way to your death?”  Simon had to ponder.  “Who is this man?”  “If anyone needs comfort-it’s this man!”  He understands the people are divided about this man but he is asked to carry HIS cross.  Simon doesn’t know anything about the man except what the many voices are saying.  

A simple walk through the country would forever change the life of Simon.  He will always be known as the man who carried the cross of Jesus but he was a follower too.  According to Bible scholars, “Rufus” found in Romans 16:13 Paul was referring to Simon of Cyrene who carried the cross. So, although Simon had a personal encounter with Jesus it changed his life.

What can we learn about Simon’s journey?  Eventually in our lives we will encounter the life of Jesus, we will either choose to be a spectator of the events of Christ or become a devoted follower.  What we must understand, God calls us out of the crowd to make a public choice about Him.  WHO DO YOU SAY I AM?  Which voice will lead your path?  Will it be the mockers who didn’t understand?  Will it be the followers who walked closely behind?  Sadly, some chose to sit with the mockers to gamble their eternal destiny.  Besides mocking the mission of Christ, they mock Him directly to His face.  Although they mock Him, He longs to forgive them.  Others walk with Jesus closely behind him; they truly know WHO He is.  As they walk with Him, they suffer with Him.
Calvary does demonstrate the love of the Father but it also demonstrates the cost-death. 

We can’t follow Christ without their being a death to sin and to self.  So, we can’t have the abundant life or eternal life without believing in Jesus.  Besides dying at salvation, it’s a continual journey to die on a daily basis so the will of God is done.  (I Corinthians 15:31)
     Simon was passing by but he was called out of the crowd-to follow Jesus.  It’s a personal journey down the road to Calvary, only the footprints of Jesus and yours.  It’s a personal and public declaration to the world-not for popularity.  If we are to follow Jesus, we are to follow Him to Calvary.  At Calvary, Jesus suffered a public, shameful, and horrific death to publicly carry my penalty, shame, and sin.  He publicly demonstrated His love for us, so why is it so difficult for us to publicly demonstrate our love before the world?