May 17, 2013
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news today from Mark 15:20b-25.
And led him out to crucify him. They pressed into service a passer-by, Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. They brought him to the place of Golgotha (which is translated Place of the Skull). They gave him wine drugged with myrrh, but he did not take it. They they crucified him and divided his garments by casting lots for them to see what each should take. It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him.
Take up your cross. I’ve often wondered about that phrase. It was a Roman soldier who enlisted Simon to carry Jesus’ cross as apparently Jesus no longer had sufficient physical strength. Perhaps he even said to Simon, “Take up his cross.” One man was chosen at random to bear this burden, to help Jesus complete his journey. To the soldier and to Simon it was the final leg of the journey to death. For Jesus it was the completion of his journey of faith, his return to his Father. In taking up Jesus’ cross, Simon shared his suffering and his perseverance to the end of the journey.
Today it strikes me that Jesus is saying to me, “Take up my cross.” It seems to me that Jesus is asking for my help to carry his cross, the instrument of his suffering and death. To persevere to the end. I’ve always thought of my cross as some flaw in myself or some burden particular to me. Maybe that’s not it. Maybe the message is that Jesus is asking me to help finish his mission, establishing the kingdom of God, being an instrument of compassion and justice. Doing so will likely involve self-denial, perhaps suffering in some way, but also standing up for those who lack the capacity to carry their burdens themselves whatever the reason, to help them persevere to the end of their journey of life.
It’s not my cross necessarily that I’m told to take up. It’s his cross, his mission. And thus those who struggle with life’s burdens, with the crosses imposed upon them. I am Simon enlisted to carry the cross.