Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as recorded by the apostle Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses thirty-two through fifty-six of the twenty-seventh chapter. When you come to this particular passage of scripture you will find the Trial of Jesus coming to a close and the crucifixion beginning to take place. As you come to the beginning of this particular portion of scripture you will find it beginning with an unusual scenario and event within the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. If you take the time to study the betrayal of Jesus in the garden as well as His subsequent trial before Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate, you will find that once the soldiers and insurgent Judas led into the garden seized and laid hold of Jesus, all of the disciples fled. This is most interesting, for if you study the betrayal, the trial and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ you will find that when He was betrayed in the garden or gethsemane He has Peter, James and John with Him, as well as the remaining eight disciples further away and apart from Him—perhaps at the entrance of the garden. When you come to the Trial of Jesus Christ you will find that when He stood trial, He essentially stood trial alone, for there was no one there with Him when He stood trial before Caiaphas, and there was no one beside Him when He stood Trial before Pilate. WHEN JESUS STANDS TRIAL ALONE! When we study the trial and crucifixion of Jesus the Christ we will find that He stood before His accusers and stood before His assailants alone without any of His disciples standing there with Him. The entire scene changes when you come to Jesus beginning to make the journey from the hall of Pilate to Golgotha where He would be nailed to the cross and where He would be crucified before a watching world. What is so incredibly interesting about this reality and the events within the life and ministry of Jesus Christ is that when we find Him beginning to make the journey to Golgotha, we do not find Him alone in the journey. Neither in the journey to the scene of the crucifixion, nor in the scene of His actually crucifixion do we find Jesus alone, for when we begin reading thus passage we find that the soldiers compelled a man by the name of Simon to help Jesus carry his cross.
THE WRONG SIMON HELPED CARRY THR CROSS! There was a man named Simon who helped Jesus Carey his cross along the road that would lead and bring Him to the place of His death, yet I can’t help but get the sense that it was the wrong Simon who helped Jesus carry the cross toward the place of the skull. I can’t help but get the strong sense that the Simon which should have been there helping Jesus carry the cross along the road to the place of the crucifixion was Simon who was also called Peter. Of course we know that this wasn’t the case, for Simon who was called Peter was still weeping sorely and bitterly because of His denial of the Lord Jesus Christ. We do not find Simon called Peter helping Jesus carry His cross, for Simon was still dealing with the tremendous guilt and shame of denying his Lord on the night He was betrayed, and although He followed from a distance, he didn’t remain true to the words he spoke concerning his willingness to die with Jesus. When we come to this particular passage of scripture we find Jesus having just been sentenced to death, and the soldiers commanding and instructing another man named Simon to help Jesus carry His cross. On the one hand it is good that there was a man named Simon who helped Jesus carry his cross, but on the other hand it should have been Simon called Peter who walked beside Jesus helping him carry his cross. When Jesus made the journey from the hall of Pilate, He did so without a single one of His disciples with Him along the way. What I have to admit is so incredibly amazing is that once judgment was made and the sentence was passed down, Jesus was forced to carry His own cross to the place of His death and crucifixion. What makes the concept of Jesus carrying the cross and instrument of His death so intriguing is that when it came time for Jesus to carry His cross, He did not and could not carry it alone. We dare not miss the tremendous significance of the reality that when it came to Jesus carrying his cross from the place of judgment and condemnation to the place of death, he did not and could not carry it alone. Jesus was in need of one to help him carry the cross—perhaps because of the tremendous burden and weight it would have placed on his body because of the suffering.
As I consider the concept of Jesus being forced to carry His cross along the Via Dolorosa from the hall of Pilate to the place of the skull where He would be crucified, I can’t help but be reminded of the words which Jesus Himself spoke unto His disciples concerning taking up and carrying their own cross. If you turn and direct your attention back to the sixteenth chapter of this same New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ you will find Jesus not only speaking unto his disciples concerning who men said that He was, but you will also find Jesus speaking unto His disciples concerning the tremendous need for them to deny themselves, to take up their cross and follow after Him. I would like to call your attention to this particular passage found within the sixteenth chapter of this gospel, for it brings us face to face with the awesome and incredible reality of Jesus instructing and inviting His disciples to pick up and carry their cross. Consider if you will the words which are recorded by the apostle Matthew in the sixteenth chapter beginning with the thirteenth verse of the chapter:
“When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that you art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto Him, Blessed art thou Simon Bar-Joan: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Then charged He His disciples that they should tell no man that He was Jesus the Christ…”
“From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto His disciples, how that He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took Him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But He turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offense unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. Then said Jesus unto His disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and then He shall reward every man according to His works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in His kingdom” (Matthew 16:13-28).
What is so incredibly unique about this particular passage is that there appears to be an intrinsic link between the suffering and death of Jesus the Christ, and the call and invitation given unto His disciples to deny themselves, to take up their cross and to follow Him. Immediately after commending the apostle Peter for the revelation given unto Him by His Heavenly Father who was in heaven concerning His being Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus began from that time on speaking unto the disciples and making them aware of His journey to Jerusalem where He would suffer many things at the hands of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders. While in this particular passage Jesus doesn’t speak concerning the method and means of His death—namely, that of crucifixion—He did suggest unto His disciples that He would not only suffer, but would also be put to death before being raised from death to life on the third day. What I find worth mentioning within this passage is that while Jesus didn’t speak concerning the means and method of His death—namely, the act of crucifixion, and His being nailed to a cross by the Roman soldiers—He did suggest and speak of it when speaking unto His disciples. Although Jesus didn’t at this time mention crucifixion and being nailed to a cross by the Romans, when He spoke unto His disciples and invited them to follow Him, He mentioned, spoke of and alluded to the cross and their need to carry the cross. It’s worth noting that the disciples had already left and abandoned everything to follow Jesus the Christ, and now when Jesus begins speaking unto them concerning following Him, He begins by stating that if any man would desire and seek to follow Him, that man must deny themselves, that man must take up their cross, and that man must then come after and follow Him. Please don’t miss the tremendous significance and importance of this, for the words which Jesus speaks unto His disciples suggests that there is and there can be no following Him without first a deliberate and intentional denial of oneself. In order for us to truly walk with and follow Jesus it requires of us that we deny ourselves and give up any sense of entitlement, any rights we believe we have, and any privileges we believe we have possessed within and throughout the course of our lifetime. If we truly wish, and if we truly desire to follow after Jesus the Christ, it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that it begins with a denying of oneself. DENIAL IS THE PATH TO THE CROSS! In fact, I would dare say that we cannot even think of picking up the cross we have been called to carry and to bear without first denying ourselves. It is denial, and a deliberate and intentional denial of ourselves and everything we hold on to so dearly that we are then positioned and able to pick up and carry our cross—the cross which we have been called to bear.
With this in mind, I can’t help but be reminded of and Old Testament passage that alludes to the reality of carrying the instrument of our death to the place ordained and appointed for our death. If you journey back to the Old Testament book of Genesis, you will find the account of Abraham being tested by the living God to sacrifice his one and only son at and in the place He would show him. Isaac who was his beloved son, and Isaac who was the son of the promise rather than the son of the flesh was now being asked of God to be sacrificed upon the altar at the place the Lord Himself would show unto him. You will find the account of Abraham being tested by God concerning his son Isaac in the twenty-second chapter of the Old Testament book of Genesis. In this particular passage—not only will you find the testing of Abraham as the Lord called him to sacrifice his only begotten son upon the altar in the palace He would show him, but you also find Isaac making the journey with his father to this particular place. Consider if you will that which is recorded in this passage of Scripture beginning with the first verse of the chapter:
“And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell the of. And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.A Nd Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together. And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where it he lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him; For now I know that thou dearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-Jireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen. And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, and said, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice. So Abraham returned unto his young men, and they rose up and went together to Beer-Sheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beer-Sheba” (Genesis 22:1-19).
Please don’t miss the tremendous significance of that which is written and recorded in this particular passage of Scripture, for within this passage of Scripture we find Abraham taking his one and only son Isaac with him to the place the Lord God Himself would show unto him. It would be there in that place the Lord would show unto him that he would be asked to sacrifice his one and only son Isaac upon the altar as a burnt offering before and unto the living God. The part of this passage I want to bring and call your attention to is what it records concerning Abraham himself carrying the fire and the knife, and yet binding the wood for the sacrifice upon the shoulders of his son Isaac. It has long been taught and it has long been believed that this particular passage of Scripture is a portent, a type and a shadow of that which Jesus the Christ Himself would do when He came to the earth as the Lamb of God which was to be sacrificed upon Golgotha in the place of the skull. While most would read this particular passage and focus all their attention on the act of sacrifice itself, I can’t help but read the words which are found within this passage of Scripture and be directly confronted with and by the fact that when Abraham and Isaac left the two men who had made the journey with them, he himself held the knife and the fire, and yet he placed the wood upon the shoulders of Isaac. Essentially, the instrument of Isaac’s subsequent death would be placed upon his shoulders, and he would be asked to carry the very wood of the sacrifice upon his shoulders. Oh, I pray that you catch and understand this, for it is incredibly powerful when you think about and consider the awesome and tremendous fact that Isaac is a type and a shadow of Christ, and that in the pages of the Old Testament we find another son carrying the wood of his sacrifice and the wood of his death upon his shoulders while the father watched him do so. One thing I can’t help but wonder is whether or not Abraham made Isaac travel and journey before him as he carried the wood of the sacrifice upon his shoulders, or whether Isaac walked behind and followed Abraham until they both arrived at the place of the sacrifice. Scripture isn’t clear whether Isaac walked before Abraham, or whether he walked behind Abraham, but I can’t help but wonder what it was like for Abraham to bind the wood of the sacrifice upon the shoulders of his son.knowing full well that the wood would be removed from his shoulders, arranged on the altar, and then the same young man who carried the wood would then be laid upon the wood. Oh, please get and recognize this within the very depths of your heart and spirit, for it is incredibly significant when you consider that which is written and recorded concerning Jesus the Christ.
IN the Old Testament we find Isaac the only begotten son of the father being asked to carry the wood of the sacrifice upon his shoulders, and once he arrived at the place appointed by the living God, the wood would be removed from his shoulders, and he himself would be placed upon that wood. Isaac would be responsible for carrying the wood of the sacrifice upon his shoulders, and once both he and his father arrived at the place ordained and appointed for the act of sacrifice, the wood would be removed from his shoulders, arranged on the altar, and Isaac himself would be bound and placed upon the wood. Pause for a moment and consider this scene as it is unfolds, for there was Abraham carrying the knife and the fire, while his only begotten son Isaac carried the wood of the sacrifice. The whole while Isaac was carrying the wood for the sacrifice upon his shoulders he had absolutely no idea or indication that the wood which he was carrying upon his shoulders would be wood that would be used for his sacrifice upon the altar in the land of Moriah. Isaac had no idea that the wood He was carrying upon his shoulders would be removed from his shoulders in the place of sacrifice, and he himself would be bound and placed upon that very same wood. Did you catch the typography and symbolism that is found in this passage of Scripture, and how Isaac as the son was responsible for carrying the wood of the sacrifice upon his shoulders until he and the father arrived at the place of sacrifice. Once both he and the father arrived at the place of sacrifice the wood would be removed from his shoulders, and He himself would be placed upon the wood after being bound by his father. I can’t help but wonder what went through the heart and mind of Isaac in that moment when he was bound, and then when he was placed upon the altar—upon the very wood that he himself had carried to that very place. Did panic, did fear, did terror, did dread seize the heart and soul of Isaac as he watched his father raise the knife above his head to plunge it into the body of his only son? What could have possibly went through the heart and mind of Isaac as he watched his father bind him, place him on the altar, and then raise the knife to slay him there upon the altar? This brings an entirely new meaning to “living sacrifice” which the apostle Paul mentioned, for when sacrifice was commanded in the law of Moses, the sacrifices which were offered upon the altar were killed before being placed upon the fire in the midst of the altar. When we think about Jesus the Christ at Golgotha, and when we think of Isaac in the land of Moriah, we come face to face with the tremendous reality of both sons being alive when the sacrifice would be made. Isaac was very much alive when his body was placed upon the altar and upon the wood, and Jesus Himself was very much alive when His body was placed upon the very cross which He had carried from the hall of Pilate to the place of the skull outside the city.
I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the twelfth chapter of the epistle which he wrote unto the Roman church and unto the saints which were at Rome. If you begin reading with and from the first verse of the twelfth chapter you will find the following words written by the apostle of Jesus Christ: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1-2). Here within this particular passage of Scripture we find the apostle Paul writing and speaking unto the saints of God concerning their presenting themselves unto God as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable which was their reasonable service. It is absolutely necessary that we pay close attention to this particular reality, for to do so would be to come face to face with the fact that when Jesus spoke unto His disciples concerning their desire to come after and follow Him, they needed to first deny themselves, then take up the cross, and then follow Him. The thing we don’t always recognize and understand concerning taking up our cross and following Jesus is that there are times when we are unable to carry the cross alone in and with our own strength. There are times when the burden of carrying the cross we have been called and invited to bear is too much for us to bear, and we need another to come alongside us to help us carry the cross. One thing I absolutely love about the invitation of Jesus to take up our cross and follow Him is that he didn’t ask us to take up our cross without teaching and showing us how to. It has been said that Jesus carried the cross so we wouldn’t have to, and that Jesus died on the cross so we wouldn’t have to. I can’t help but directly confront such erroneous thinking and declare that it is completely and utterly false. I do not for one minute believe that Jesus carried the cross so we wouldn’t have to, nor did Jesus die upon the cross so we wouldn’t have to. It is true that Jesus bore the punishment and judgment of sin upon the cross of Calvary, yet I do not believe for a single minute that Jesus carried the cross so we wouldn’t have to. I do not believe for one minute that Jesus died upon the cross so we wouldn’t have to. I am completely and utterly convinced that Jesus carried the cross upon His shoulders along the Via Dolorosa to show and demonstrate unto us how to do so. I believe with all my heart that Jesus carried the cross along the Via Dolorosa—not so we would not have to, but as an example unto us for carrying the cross. Jesus carried the cross—the very instrument of his death—upon his shoulders, and he did so in order that we might come face to face with the example and witness of how to carry the cross we have been called to bear.
We would be incredibly naïve to think and consider even for one moment that we are not, and have not been called to carry the cross, and to even die upon it. Away with the teaching and preaching that declares that Jesus carried the cross so we wouldn’t have to. Away with the teaching and preaching that declares that Jesus was nailed to the cross so we wouldn’t have to be. Away with the teaching and preaching that declares that Jesus was crucified upon the cross so we wouldn’t have to be. There is not a doubt in my mind that when Jesus carried the cross upon His shoulders He did so in order that He might fulfill the divine word and will of the Father, but also to serve as a wonderful and powerful example unto us how to carry the cross and how to die upon it. Jesus would never ask us to do something that He Himself wasn’t first willing to do, and hadn’t already done. Though Jesus hadn’t yet picked up and carried His cross when He invited His disciples and those who would join the disciples in following Him, He would come to the place where He would deny Himself, would pick up and carry the cross upon His shoulders, and would carry that cross to the place of sacrifice and death. Oh, please don’t miss and lose sight of the tremendous significance of this fact, for it brings us face to face with the fact that Jesus carried the cross upon His shoulders, and He took up the cross in order that we would have an example of what it meant and what it looked like to carry the cross. We dare not miss and neglect this very important reality, for to do so would be to miss out on the tremendous truth that surrounds the need and the invitation to deny ourselves, to pick up the cross, and to carry the cross. Jesus invited us to deny ourselves and take up our cross, and He actually showed us and provided us with a wonderful and powerful example of what that looks like. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the same New Testament epistle which was written unto the Romans. If you journey unto the sixth chapter of this New Testament epistle, you will find the following words written and recorded beginning with the third verse. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul wrote when writing unto the Roman saints and congregation within this particular epistle:
“Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: knowing that Christ being raised from the dead deity no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, HE died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also ourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:3-14).
When I consider that which is written concerning Jesus the Christ and His carrying the cross, I can’t help but be gripped and captivated with and by the fact that He Himself didn’t carry the cross alone. I can’t help but wonder how far Jesus actually carried the cross before it eventually became too much and too heavy for Him to bear, and He collapsed under the weight and pressure of the cross. How long did Jesus actually have the cross upon His shoulders—the instrument of His death—before they found this man called Simon from Cyrene and forced him to help Jesus carry the cross? Scripture isn’t clear how long Jesus carried the cross alone and by himself before they compelled Simon from Cyrene to carry the cross with and for Him, but Scripture is incredibly clear that Simon was compelled to carry the cross of Jesus Christ to the place of Golgotha. Pause for a moment and consider that reality—the reality that once Simon arrived at the place of the skull, the cross was removed from his shoulders, and was placed on the ground where Jesus would be nailed to its wooden beams. Imagine Simon spending the rest of his life with the knowledge and testimony that he himself helped Jesus carry His cross to the place of the skull. Do you want to know what would be absolutely incredible? I think it would be incredibly powerful if after Jesus was raised from death to life and emerged from the grave He came across Simon from Cyrene and thanked him for helping him carry the cross. What would it have been like if Jesus came across and encountered Simon after He was raised from the grave, and Simon saw the same man sentenced to death, and the same man who was forced to carry his cross to the place of the skull very much alive? What’s more, is that would it have been like if Simon remained at the place of the skull and watched as Jesus was not only nailed to the wooden beams of the cross, but also as He died upon that same instrument He carried. The more I think about and the more I consider the fact that Simon helped Jesus carry the cross to the place of death is that it brings us face to face with the tremendous fact that when it comes to carrying and bearing our cross, we have to understand that we have not been called to carry and bear them alone. Despite the fact that Jesus invited us to deny ourselves, to take up our cross, and to follow Him, He never stated that we are to carry, and even that we would be able to bear the cross alone upon our shoulders. In fact, I am convinced that when the cross which you are carrying becomes too much for you to bear and carry, I am to come alongside you and help you. When the cross which I am carrying and called to bear becomes too much for me to bear, you are to come alongside me and help me carry the cross. Oh, I can’t help but be reminded once more of the words which the apostle Paul wrote—this time when writing unto the churches which were in Galatia. I leave you with the words which the apostle Paul wrote in his letter unto the churches in Galatia, which are found in the sixth chapter of the epistle:
“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every mans shall bear his own burden. Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teachers in all good things. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man Soweto, that shall he also reap. For he that Soweto to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:1-10).