As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. (Luke 23:26-27)
Simon involuntarily carried Jesus’ cross. Jesus tells us we must voluntarily carry our own. The cross of Christ drew a large crowd. Taking up our own is much less popular. Is the reality of the cross being lived out in contemporary western culture? In the church I attended for twenty years, I do not recall any sermons on Luke 9:23. Here is an adaptation of that verse from the Amplified Bible;
And Jesus said to all, If any person wills to come after Me, let him disown himself; let him forget and refuse himself and give himself up to me. Let him take up his cross daily and cleave steadfastly to Me. Let him be conformed wholly to My example in living and, if necessary, in dying also.
I cannot help but think of my granddaughter who just asked Jesus into her heart. Should this little note about her cross have been shared with her before she invited Jesus in? When will her obligation to disown herself come due? I pray that she will be exposed to (and choose) the full -gospel that birthed the first century Church – not the contemporary western version that has excluded the cross.
I understand my granddaughter’s prayer went something like this, “Lord Jesus, please come into my heart and (by the way) thank you for feeding the five hundred.” From there she likely picked up her American Doll and skipped on to her next adventure. How will this precious child come to understand Luke 9:23? Will someone be there to explain to her that she has been saved by a gift, yet as it is opened, it will include her cross? I have concern that her bright mind may stumble over the tangled ideas of a gift and a cross.
I am so grateful that Jesus has come into her life and that her parents will be the models of this apparent contradiction. I believe her parent’s lives will demonstrate how the precious gift of Jesus Christ is the beginning of life and that the continuance of it involves dying to our own agendas. By God’s grace, their lives will embody and model Luke 9:23 as the counterintuitive pathway to actual freedom. I believe their deference to the Holy Spirit will equip them to equip her to walk by faith and obedience. I believe her parent’s lives will help her untangle the mystery of the gift and the cross.
I pray for my young granddaughter-disciple that her community will help her distinguish between the American Dream and the Kingdom of God. I pray they will not only pledge allegiance to the American flag and the republic for which it stands; I pray they will model submission to God for the furtherance of His Kingdom. I pray that her grasp of the cross will help her to see America the Beautiful in the right light. While the constitution attempts to guarantee her rights to pursue liberty and happiness, I pray that she will see Jesus and His words in Luke 9:23 as her only true Guarantor of freedom and joy. So be it Lord.