Let us pray: Dear Lord Christ, as we struggle to confess You and show forth Your glory in our lives, we often grow weary and feel very, very, alone. Remind us today that we are never alone! For You are always with us! The company of angels is beside us! The army of saints in heaven is routing for us! And our fellow saints on this earth are our support network. With such assistance, we can all fight the good fight of faith and win! Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE ULTIMATE CROSS-BEARER
TEXT: Mark 8: 27-35
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
How big was Jesus? Have you ever thought about that? Because we tend to overlay our modern physiology upon the people of His time, you probably think He was about 6 feet tall and 180 to 200 lbs. Wrong! If you examine archeological evidence of the time, coupled with diet and anatomy, Jesus was probably about 5’ 2” to 5’ 4” and weighed around 120 lbs. That was average for that time and place.
So, how big was His cross? Again, modern artistic license has colored most people’s thinking in this area. Most would say that it was 12 to 15 feet tall. Wrong again. For that would be a waste of wood which was precious in that arid climate. No, Jesus’ cross was probably about 9 feet tall (with a couple feet of it in the ground.) It was green wood, too, and rough hewn. You can figure it was about 8 to 10 inches in diameter. And thus it weighed about 250 to 300 lbs. No wonder He broke down carrying it to Calvary! It was very, very heavy!
I bring all this up as background to our lesson on cross-bearing. For the imagery of our text to be real, you need to understand the size, weight, and burden that crosses actually were. So, when He says: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me”—what exactly does that mean? What does that entail for us? Well, we’ll answer that query by considering:
WHAT IS “CROSS BEARING”?
Of course, the real weight of the cross that Jesus carried was unseen. It wasn’t contained in the wood fibers. No, it was the weight of the world’s sins. It was God’s holy judgment upon all humans who would ever live. It was death and hell. It was anguish and suffering.—Suffering in love for human rebellion against the Almighty. So, we can say that Jesus’ cross-bearing was really His loving suffering for our sins borne of His allegiance to lost souls. Conversely, our cross-bearing is following His footsteps and willingly suffering inner and outer pain borne of our allegiance to Him. In short, cross-bearing is our suffering for Christ which is caused by our faithful confession of Him and the world’s animosity toward that confession.
A lot of Christians get confused when it comes to defining cross bearing. The term has become a catch-all phrase for any sort of trouble we face in life. That’s a poor definition. And often it leads to people excusing their own sins and failing to practice real repentance. I’ll give you some examples. 1. I know of parents who failed to practice both soft love and tough love toward their children. They excused bad behavior. They made light of their children’s cheating in school or their shop-lifting with that shop-worn phrase: “Children will be children.” Later on when their kids got involved in drugs and their lives fell apart, those same parents concluded: “O, I just have to bear this cross!”—As if to somehow blame God for the problem they helped cause! 2. Often faithful Christians and even pastors trot out the phrase “cross bearing” when talking to a person who has cancer. They do that because they are filled with compassion and want to comfort the afflicted. And yet, God never directly causes evil to invade a believer’s life. The wages of sin is death—even death by cancer. The wages of sin is not God’s fault. No, it is Adam and Eve’s fault and the condition we inherited from them. 3. Or, how about the substance abuser who struggles each day with their addiction? If they call it “cross bearing” aren’t they somehow pawning off their own responsibility for it upon God? Aren’t they falling down when it comes to the first half of repentance, which is the admission: “I’m guilty, I’m to blame?”
Since Scripture helps us to understand Scripture, let’s turn to another passage which speaks of cross bearing and helps define it. In Matthew 10 Christ says this: “Anyone who loves his father and mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Likewise the end of our text, where Jesus says: “whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.”
Cross bearing means suffering for Christ and His gospel message. It means suffering the slings and arrows of those who mock Him, who make fun of our Sunday morning worship, who denigrate you whenever you let your light shine. Cross bearing entails not just talking the talk, but walking the walk of faith. Or, as James says in today’s epistle: “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” Standing up for Jesus instead of quietly giving in to social pressures which increasingly encroach on Sunday morning is cross-bearing. Telling that profane co-worker to watch their language because it offends God’s 2nd commandment and being ridiculed for it is cross-bearing. Reaching out to a lost neighbor in love for their soul and having them question your motives is cross-bearing. Having the media lump us together with all those false religions out there and conclude: “They’re all the same.” That’s cross-bearing, too.
Because you see, we’re not “all the same.” Christianity is totally unique in the world because Christianity says: “Man does nothing to save himself, and God does everything.” It says: “God died a horrible death on a cross to pay for our guilt and gives us forgiveness as a free gift.” Christianity says: “Lose the ego, lose the pride, lose the attitude of entitlement in life and trust in Christ, for then everything in life will be a blessing freely given and you’ll thank God for it instead of thanking yourself.”
Cross bearing is the soul’s self-denial. It is love for Christ in action. It is appreciation in action. It is thankful trust in action. So, when we lose the attitude, or as Jesus says: “lose our lives for Him and for the gospel” we’ll find inner peace! For love, thankfulness and peace of soul always go hand-in-hand. Yes, self-denial is a blessing because it sweeps clean our hearts in order to make room for Christ! Amen