“Come along boys. We must be going. Today we’ll be in Jerusalem in time for the Passover Seder.” Simon coaxed Alexander and Rufus to don their packs one more time.
Alexander pulled his pack on his back with a hop. “It’s too bad Mom didn’t live to be with us for this.”
Simon lifted Rufus’s pack for him. “Yes, your Mother longed to see God’s Temple. She spoke of it often. She never tired of reading the scriptures that described it. But, she didn’t survive the birth of your sister, who died shortly after her birth.”
Rufus fastened his rope around his waist. “What’s so special about the Temple?”
Simon released Rufus’s pack and started the trek Eastward. “It’s the dwelling place of God on Earth.”
Rufus jogged next to his Dad and grabbed his hand. “You mean God lives there? Can we go in the Temple and see God?”
Alexander walked behind. “Not likely.”
Rufus looked back. “Why not?”
Simon looked down. “Only a chosen few from God’s chosen people are allowed into the part of the Temple that God is in, and then it’s only at prescribed times for specific ordinances.”
Rufus looked up. “What would happen if I went in there?”
Alexander looked around the front of their Father. “It would be the last thing you ever did, because God would strike you dead.”
Rufus looked straight ahead. “Wow, I didn’t know God was so mean.”
Simon stopped and picked his youngest son up. “It’s not that God is mean that He would strike you, but because He’s Holy. He demands perfection because He is perfect.”
Rufus looked at his Dad. “So, how does anybody get to be with God?”
Simon rubbed Rufus’s head. “The Passover, and all the other ordinances, are looking forward to the promised Messiah who will make a way for us to commune with God on a personal level.”
Rufus put an arm around his Dad’s neck. “When will the Messiah come?”
Simon kept walking. “Some say He’s here now. There’s a man named Jesus who brings sight to the blind and cures diseases with a touch. He could be the long-awaited One.”
Simon stopped and stared ahead. “There it is. That white square on the horizon is the Temple. We should be there before mid-day.”
As the trio entered Jerusalem they stopped in the crowd. People were pressing in on all sides. They could hear shouting in the distance. Simon picked Rufus up.
“What are all these people doing, Daddy?”
Simon shrugged. “I don’t know. I expected a lot of people in the city, but I think if we wait here whatever is happening will pass by, then we can continue on.”
A man came into view carrying a beam, a Roman soldier walked on either side of him.
“What’s he doing, Daddy?”
Simon hugged Rufus with his left arm and pulled Alexander near him with his right hand. “He’s going to his crucifixion. I heard the Romans could be ruthless, but I didn’t want to believe it. They’re making a public example of him so others won’t commit his crime. He’s about to endure a long agonizing death.”
The third man in the procession staggered under his beam. Blood poured from the fresh cuts on His back. The red welts on His face made Him unrecognizable. He collapsed in front of the family.
A soldier pointed his spear at Simon. “YOU, take up His cross!”
Simon stepped back pushing Alexander behind him while holding Rufus away from the weapon. The soldier shifted his spear to his left hand and reached for his sword with his right hand.
A woman shrieked. “JESUS!!”
Simon placed his youngest son at Alexander’s feet and quickly removed his pack. “Stay together. I’ll find you later.” He then put the beam on his right shoulder. As Simon reached down with his left hand he saw the open lines on Jesus’s back. The scripture that went through his mind was “…and by His stripes we are healed.” He lifted Jesus to His feet. Jesus looked up and made eye contact through his swelling lids. The fresh blood from the beam quickly soaked Simon’s shirt and ran down his back.
Matthew 16:24 “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.”
I almost started this section by saying that Simon, the Cyrenian, was the only person to perform this task literally; but then I read the text closer. Jesus didn’t say that we’re to take up HIS cross, the one Jesus was carrying, but his cross, meaning each one’s personal cross. You see, each one of us has our own individual cross that is designed to conform us into the person God wants us to become.
Romans 8:28-29 states that all things work to make us more like Jesus. That’s who we’re supposed to emulate. These crosses are different because each of us is different and are given a different task to perform. Some of us have physical afflictions we must deal with. Others have traumatic childhood experiences to overcome. Some were taken advantage of later in life and need to redevelop trust. All are designed to bring us closer to Christ.
I realize that’s a pretty big pill for some of you to swallow at this time. You’re still at the “this is so unfair” stage that you’ve done good to stay with me this far. I haven’t found the verse that says life will be fair for those who follow Jesus.
Take another look at that verse. The first step is to deny yourself. That means putting others before yourself. When you come to see other’s needs as greater than your own then you’ll be ready to take up your cross. When your heart breaks for them you’ll be a huge step closer to being more like Jesus.
Trust me. When you help someone else with their cross, your cross will seem lighter.
I’ll see you later. Wade