Entrusted With the Cross: Prepared For the Cross Through Endurance In Suffering

Today’s selected reading continues in and concludes the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ as written and recorded by the apostle Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage is found in chapters twenty-six through twenty-eight of this New Testament book. “And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, He said unto His disciples, Ye know that after two days is the feast of the Passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified” (Matthew 26:1-2). “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” (Matthew 16:21). “And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: and they shall kill him, and the third day He shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorry” (Matthew 17:22-23). “And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn Him to death, and shall deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify Him: and the third day He shall rise again” (Matthew 20:17-19). THE SON OF MAN IS BETRAYED TO BE CRUCIFIED! SUFFER MANY THINGS OF THE ELDERS AND CHIEF PRIESTS AND SCRIBES! AND BE KILLED! AND BE RAISED AGAIN THE THIRD DAY! THE SON OF MAN SHALL BE BETRAYED INTO THE HANDS OF MEN! THEY SHALL KILL HIM! THE THIRD DAY HE SHALL BE RAISED AGAIN! THE SON OF MAN SHALL BE BETRAYED UNTO THE CHIEF PRIESTS AND UNTO THE SCRIBES! THEY SHALL CONDEMN HIM TO DEATH! SHALL DELIVER HIM TO THE GENTILES TO MOCK, AND TO SCOURGE, AND TO CRUCIFY HIM! THE THIRD DAY HE SHALL RISE AGAIN! BETRAYED! CONDEMNED! KILLED! CRUCIFIED! MOCKED! SCOURGED! RAISED TO LIFE ON THE THIRD DAY!

            It’s quite interesting to consider the words which are found in the opening verses of the twenty-sixth chapter, for at this particular point in time Jesus was all the more close to His being betrayed into the hands of the scribes, the elders, and the chief priests. At this time Jesus knew that His hour was almost upon Him, and that He would shortly be betrayed by one of His own into the hands of the religious leaders and community during that day who would falsely and wrongly accuse Him. At this particular juncture in the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ He absolutely knew that His hour was upon Him—the hour in which He would be handed over into the hands of sinners who would not only mock and scourge Him, but who would also ultimately crucify Him. What makes this absolutely incredible to think about and consider is when you consider the fact that this would not be the first time Jesus would speak and declare unto His disciples that He was going to be killed and crucified. IF and as you read the words which are found in the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew you will find that there were at least three other occurrences within this gospel narrative where we find Jesus speaking and revealing unto His disciples that He was going to be crucified. You cannot read the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew and not encounter and come face to face with the fact that before Jesus ever enter into the city of Jerusalem during that last and final week of His passion prior to His being crucified He would speak unto the disciples and declare unto them that He would in fact be crucified at the hands of sinners. How absolutely remarkable and astounding it is to think about and consider the fact that Jesus the Christ knew the purpose for which He had been sent—and not only knew the purpose for which He was sent, but also what fulfilling that purpose would mean for Him. Jesus knew that He would be manifested in the earth to be killed and crucified, but also to be raised from death to life on the third day, and to ultimately ascend and return unto the right hand of His Father who was in heaven. You cannot read the words found in the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew and not encounter and come face to face with the awesome and incredible reality that Jesus knew the purpose for which He had been sent, and He knew that He would indeed and would in fact be crucified.

            As you read the gospel narrative which was written by the apostle Matthew you will find the first recorded declaration of Jesus unto His disciples concerning His needing to go unto Jerusalem, and that He must suffer many things of the elders, and the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and raised again on the third day is found in the sixteenth chapter. It’s actually quite intriguing to think about and consider this first recorded declaration of Jesus the Christ concerning His knowledge of suffering many things of the elders, the chief priests and the scribes, and to be killed, for it would come directly on the heels of words which He would speak unto His disciples concerning His identity and who He was. Just prior to Jesus beginning to teach and show unto His disciples that He must needs suffer many thing at the hands of the scribes, elders, and chief priests and be killed He would ask His disciples two incredibly important and powerful questions. In the verses immediately preceding Jesus’ speaking and showing unto His disciples that He must suffer many things we find Him asking the disciples who men said that He the Son of man was. Initially His disciples declared how some said that He was John the Baptist, some said that He was Elijah, others said that He was Jeremiah, or perhaps one of the prophets. Jesus—after listening to and hearing the opinions of men—would then transition the conversation around identity to ask the disciples who they themselves said that He was. It would be direct response to this Simon also called Peter would speak up and declare unto Jesus that He was the Christ, the Son of the living God. Upon hearing these words Jesus would emphatically declare and proclaim unto Simon called Peter that flesh and blood had not revealed this unto him, but that His Father in heaven had revealed it unto him. Jesus would then go on to declare unto Simon that he was Peter, and upon that rock would He build His church, and that the gates of hell would not prevail against it. In response to Jesus’ asking the disciples who they themselves personally believed Him to be Simon would emphatically declare unto Him in the company and presence of the other disciples that He was the Christ, the Son of the living God. Not only did Jesus praise the declaration of Simon called Peter, but He also declared that flesh and blood had not revealed this unto him, but His Father who was in heaven.

            What makes the narrative in the sixteenth chapter of this gospel so incredibly powerful is when you think about and consider the awesome and incredible reality that in a conversation of identity Jesus would speak of and declare that flesh and blood did not reveal unto Simon that He was the Christ and the Son of the living God, but rather His Father which was in heaven. What’s more, is that immediately after Jesus would issue and give forth His response to the words which Peter exclaimed we find Him charging His disciples that they should tell no many that He was Jesus the Christ. Directly on the heels of Jesus charging His disciples to tell no man that He was the Christ—after having just acknowledge that flesh and blood did not reveal unto Simon Peter that He was the Christ and the Son of the living God—Jesus would then begin to teach and show unto them something very specific. It is as this particular time within the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ that He would begin showing unto His disciples that He must needs suffer many things at the hands of the religious leaders—the scribes, the elders, and the chief priests—and that He must ultimately die. Immediately after a conversation about His identity and His being the Christ and the Son of the living God Jesus would show unto His disciples how He must suffer many things, and how He would ultimately be killed and crucified. It’s actually quite astonishing and remarkable to consider the words which Jesus would begin showing and speaking unto the disciples, for within and from that place of identity—within and from that place of His being the Christ and the Son of the living God—He would suffer many things at the hands of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of Israel, and would ultimately be crucified. Pause for a moment and think about the fact that it was at that time—the time Jesus would speak unto His disciples concerning His being the Christ and the Son of the living God He would also show unto them that He must needs suffer many things, be crucified, and ultimately raised from death to life on the third day.

With this being said, it’s also important to consider that this showing unto the disciples how He must needs suffer many things, be killed and crucified, and be raised from death to life on the third day would be found in between the place of identity and invitation. As you read the words found in the sixteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew you will find that this teaching and this showing unto the disciples how He must needs suffer many things would come in between a dialogue surrounding identity and an invitation to discipleship. It would be in that place between a conversation about who the disciples believed Jesus to be—and not only who the disciples believed Jesus to be, but also who we as His disciples and followers believe and know Him to be—and an invitation to true and meaningful discipleship that Jesus would also show and reveal unto them that directly linked and connected to the truth surrounding His identity, and surrounding the reality of His suffering and being crucified is a powerful invitation to discipleship—and invitation which countless who profess to walk with and follow Christ, and which countless individuals who profess to be disciples of Christ have an incredibly difficult time accepting and committing their lives to. If there is one thing we must recognize about the suffering of Jesus—and not only the suffering of Jesus, but also His death and crucifixion—it’s that while it is true that He must needs be made sin to make atonement for us, and to deliver us from the power of sin and death, He did not die on the cross so that we would not have to. Jesus’ death on the cross was never a “get out of the cross” or a “get off the cross” free card for us within this life. There are those who think and believe that Jesus’ dying and being crucified on the cross is somehow the means to avoid the cross entirely and altogether on our end, and the truth of the matter is that this simply is not the case. Jesus didn’t die on the cross so we could avoid it and wouldn’t have—rather, Jesus died on the cross to show an example how we ought to. Consider if you will the following words which Jesus would speak unto His disciples immediately after He rebuked Peter and instructed Satan to get behind:

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 16:24-28).

Please don’t miss the awesome and incredible significance that is found within this passage of Scripture, for while Jesus was at Caesarea Philippi—not only would He have a conversation and dialogue with His disciples concerning who men said and believed that He the Son of man was, and not only would He have a conversation and dialogue with His disciples concerning His suffering many things at the hands of the scribes, elders and chief priests and be killed before being raised from death to life on the third day, but Jesus would now speak directly unto His disciples concerning what I would speak to and reference as a powerful call and invitation to discipleship. Jesus would indeed begin speaking unto His disciples and showing Him how He must suffer at the hands of the chief priests, scribes and elders, and that He must die, but at this point in time He hadn’t revealed unto His disciples the means by which He would die. Jesus would at this time begin speaking and showing unto His disciples how He must suffer, and how He must killed and be crucified, but He would not reveal that it would be through crucifixion that He would die. This is quite interesting when you take the time to think about and consider the fact while Jesus wouldn’t yet reveal unto His disciples the means by which He would die. Jesus wouldn’t yet reveal that He would Himself be crucified, and that it would be by means of the cross that He would suffer and die, and yet when speaking unto His disciples He would directly reference the cross—and not only taking up the cross, but coming after Him and denying themselves. If there is one thing we must recognize and understand it’s that we cannot talk about the cross of Jesus the Christ, and we cannot talk about the death and crucifixion of Jesus without at the same time talking about taking up our own cross, talking about our own self-denial, and talking about our own following Him. Any conversation that is had about the cross of Jesus the Christ must also include in it the cross you and I are called to carry, and the cross you and I are called to bear. With that in mind it’s important that we recognize and note that at the same time Jesus began teaching, speaking and showing unto His disciples that He would suffer at the hands of the chief priests, scribes and elders, and that He would be killed, He would also speak unto the disciples and speak of their need to take up their own cross and follow Him. [As a side note and point of reference it is absolutely necessary and critical that we understand that the cross you have been called to carry and bear is not the same cross that I have been called to carry and bear. I am convinced that just as no two snowflakes are the same, so also are no two crosses the same. Each and every one of us have been called to carry and have been given our own individual and unique cross which we have been called to carry and bear. What’s more is that I cannot carry your cross, and you cannot carry my cross, however, we might be called on to help each other carry our crosses. It’s important to note the account of Simon whom the Romans forced to help Jesus carry His cross on the Via Dolorosa which would ultimately lead Him to the place of His death and crucifixion].

If you continue on in the New Testament gospel narrative which was written and recorded by the apostle Matthew you will find in the very next chapter Jesus again teaches and speaks unto His disciples concerning His death. The difference and exception this time is that Jesus would add an additional element to His suffering and death, for while He would previously show unto the disciples that He must needs suffer many things at the hands and behest of the scribes, chief priests and elders and be killed, He would now add the element of betrayal into the picture. It would appear that with each subsequent revelation of His suffering and His death He would add new elements—not only to the suffering, but also to the death. What’s more, is that as you read these narratives you will find that Jesus’ ultimate death and crucifixion upon the cross would be set in motion by betrayal—betrayal by one of His own who we know as Judas Iscariot, and who would betray Him for thirty pieces of silver. Scripture reveals how Jesus’ suffering would be set in motion by His betrayal, and directly linked to His suffering would be the false accusations which would be raised against Him by the chief priests, by the scribes, by the elders, and by those whom they would hire and raise up against Him to bear false witness and testimony against Him. In order for us to truly understand the significance of Jesus’ death we must also understand the suffering—and not only the suffering, but also the betrayal—for it was the suffering that set up the death and the crucifixion of Jesus the Christ. It would be the suffering of Jesus that would ultimately lead and pave the way for Jesus to be killed. In all reality, I would dare say there is a difference between the suffering which Jesus would endure and the actual death which He would experience. Death would itself be the quicker and more immediate of the two manifestations in the midst of this particular place within the life of Jesus, however, it was the actual suffering I am convinced was the greatest reality for Jesus Himself to bear. There is not a doubt in my mind that there is a vast and complete difference between the suffering of Jesus the Christ and the actual death of Christ, for death would be that which would take place in a moment of time—perhaps even in the blink of an eye. Jesus would give up the ghost while hanging there upon the cross—and after hanging upon the cross for a total of six hours—and death would be the quickest and easiest part of this whole divine process. It would be the suffering which would take place leading up to the cross that would perhaps be the most intense part of this reality within the life of Jesus, for it would be the suffering that would take place in the form of what He would experience at both the hands of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of Israel, as well as at the hands of the Romans.

That which makes Jesus’ statements in the seventeenth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew so incredibly powerful is when you think about and consider the fact that it would take place on the heels of the transfiguration of Jesus atop the mountain. The seventeenth chapter begins and opens with Jesus the Christ taking Peter, James and John with Him up on to a mountain, and it would be there atop the mountain where He would be transfigured in their sight. The seventeenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew would begin with Jesus taking these three disciples atop a mountain, and it would be there atop the mountain where His appearance would be transfigured in their sight and presence. Peter, James and John would all fall upon their faces as dead men as not only was Jesus’ appearance altered and transfigured in their sight, but He also appeared as talking with Moses and Elijah. This is quite an astonishing reality, for in the midst of the transfiguration of Jesus atop the mountain He would appear in the form He had with the Father before taking on the form of human flesh, and would communicate and fellowship with Moses who represented the Law, and Elijah who represented the prophets. It would be there atop the mountain where not only would grace and truth communicate with the Law and the prophets, but a cloud would overshadow Peter, James and John, and a voice would speak and proclaim from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well please; hear ye Him.” It would be when the disciples heard the voice speaking from heaven they would fall upon their faces, and would be sore afraid. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this awesome encounter and experience which the disciples would experience atop the mountain, for it would be atop the mountain where they would see and find Jesus being elevated and exalted above the Law and the prophets—a reality which Jesus Himself would allude to earlier in the Sermon on the Mount when He declared that He did not come to do away with or abolish the Law and the prophets, but to fulfill them. Now on top of the mountain Jesus is speaking directly with the Law and the prophets as we would see this powerful convergence of the Law, the prophets, and grace and mercy in the person of Jesus the Christ. Stop and consider what an absolutely incredible sight that must have been like for Peter, James and John as they not only saw Jesus who represented grace and truth, but also as they would see Moses who represented the Law, and Elijah who represented the prophets.

The more I think about and consider the encounter the disciples had with the transfiguration of Jesus atop the mountain the more I can’t help but think about and consider how it would be directly on the heels of Jesus’ being transfigured before them that Jesus would speak unto them concerning His being betrayed, killed, and raised from death to life on the third day. Even though only Peter, James and John would be present atop the mountain when Jesus was transfigured, it would be all the disciples who would hear Jesus’ words concerning His betrayal and subsequent death. In the sixteenth chapter we find Jesus’ teaching and speaking unto the disciples concerning His suffering and death in direct relation to His identity as the son of man, and it would also be in that same encounter Jesus was strictly charge the disciples that they tell no man that He was the Christ. When you come to the seventeenth chapter of the same New Testament gospel—and after you read of Jesus’ being transfigured in the sight and presence of Peter, James and John—you will find Him charging these three disciples as they came down from the mountain that they tell the vision to no man until the Son of man was risen from the dead. It’s truly something worth noting and considering when reading these words how Jesus would be transfigured before Peter, James and John, and how they would not only see the Law and the prophets, but how they would also hear the voice of the Father speaking directly from heaven unto them declaring His divine pleasure in His Son, declaring that His Son was beloved, and that they ought to hear Him. It’s important to note that this was the second time the voice of the Father would be heard out of heaven declaring Jesus as His beloved Son, and declaring that it was in Jesus in whom He was well pleased. The first time the voice of the Father was heard from heaven we find it at the baptism of Jesus, while the second time the voice of the Father was heard from heaven would be at the transfiguration of Jesus the Christ. It would be there atop the mountain—again in the place of revelation—that the disciples would come to understand Jesus in an even greater and in an even fuller degree and measure. In Caesarea Philippi it would be Simon also called Peter who would declare that Jesus was the Christ and the Son of the living God, while it would be atop the mountain Jesus would be transfigured in their sight and presence, and would be seen and heard speaking with Moses and Elijah. Not only this, but the voice of the Father—the voice of the One whom Jesus spoke and declared unto Simon had revealed unto him that He was the Christ and the Son of the living God—would be heard once more as He spoke of His divine pleasure and delight in the Son, and as He instructed them to hear and listen to Jesus.

In the sixteenth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew we find and read how Jesus would begin showing unto and teaching the disciples that He must needs suffer many things at the hands of the religious leaders of that day, and how He would be killed and raised to life on the third day in the place between the revelation of Him as the Christ and the Son of the living God, and His invitation to the disciples to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Him. In the seventeenth chapter, however, we find Jesus continuing to teach and speak unto His disciples concerning His being killed and raised to life on the third day. This time, however, it would come on the heels of a revelation of the Son of God atop the mountain as the appearance of Jesus would be transfigured before these three disciples, and as the voice of the Father would instruct them to hear Him. It’s almost as if the Law and the prophets would speak to and speak concerning Jesus the Christ, and yet how the command and instruction of the Father was to hear and listen to Him. It’s almost as if although Jesus would speak unto Moses who represented the Law and Elijah who represented the prophets, the Father Himself would exalt and elevate His Son over and above the prophets. What makes this even more intriguing is when you think about and consider the fact that it would be on this particular occasion that Moses and Elijah would have also heard the voice of the Father. You will notice that it wasn’t until after the cloud overshadowed Jesus and these three disciples, and after they fell on their faces sore afraid, and after they heard the voice of the Father that Jesus came and touched them, and they would see no man save Jesus the Christ. Thus, it is very possible that even Moses and Elijah heard the voice of the Father instructing these three disciples to hear Him. What’s more, is that I can’t help but wonder if this voice speaking from heaven was more for Peter, James and John, or whether it was for Moses and Elijah. Is it possible that when the voice of the Father spoke from the midst of the cloud—almost in a similar manner to how the LORD spoke to Moses atop Sinai, and almost in a similar manner to how Elijah heard the voice of the LORD upon the same mountain—it was spoken and heard that both the Law and the prophets would hear and listen to the voice of the Son. We know that Moses spoke with the LORD from the midst of the cloud which was atop Horeb in the wilderness of Sinai, and we know that Elijah spoke with the LORD upon the same mountain, and yet we have to ask ourselves whether or not Moses and Elijah were the ones to whom these words would have been spoken.

I have to admit that in all the years I have read the narrative of the transfiguration of Jesus the Christ I have never seen, nor have I thought about the voice of the Father speaking from heaven being for Moses and Elijah rather than for Peter, James and John. We know that Peter, James and John wouldn’t have been at the baptism of Jesus, for the baptism of Jesus took place before the Spirit led Him into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. It wasn’t until after Jesus returned from the wilderness into the land of Galilee that He would call Peter and his brother Andrew, as well as James and John. This would clearly indicate that these three disciples were not present at the Jordan River when the voice of the Father had spoken from heaven declaring that this was His beloved Son in whom He was well pleased. For the longest time I thought and believed that the voice of the Father which was spoken on the day of Jesus’ transfiguration was for the disciples Peter, James and John, however, the more I read and consider these words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more I can’t hep but think about and consider that Moses stood on the top of Horeb in the midst of the wilderness in Sinai and spoke with God face to face as a man would speak with a friend. Moses had already ascended into the midst of the cloud which was upon the mountain and not only heard the voice of God, but also spoke with Him. Elijah would himself journey into the wilderness and unto Horeb and would also encounter God atop that same mountain when He would experience an earthquake, a fire, and a great wind before finally hearing the still small voice. It’s quite remarkable and astounding to consider the fact that when the Father spoke in the hearing of Peter, James and John He might very well have been speaking these words unto Moses and Elijah. It might very well be that the Father was introducing to both the Law and the prophets the Son who would be the fulfillment of both realities and manifestations in the midst of the earth. WHEN THE LAW MEETS THE MESSIAH! WHEN THE PROPHETS MEET THE MESSIAH! WHEN THE FATHER INTRODUCES THE MESSIAH TO THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS! How absolutely astonishing it would be if the words which the Father had spoken in the hearing of Peter, James and John was spoken directly to Moses and Elijah, and they were the benefactors of such an encounter. How truly remarkable it would be to read the words found in this passage of Scripture and to consider how these three disciples would have heard the voice of the Father speaking unto both the Law and the prophets, and how the Father commanded both to hear the voice of His Son.

I sit here today and I am absolutely captivated with and by the incredible reality that when the voice of the Father spoke from the midst of the cloud atop the mountain—not only would Peter, James and John hear the voice of the Father, but so also would Moses and Elijah. Scripture speaks of Abraham’s bosom, and it might very well be possible that Moses and Elijah were in Abraham’s bosom up to the time of Christ, and that they were both brought forth from that place to stand and appear with Jesus the Christ. It is truly something wonderful and astounding to think that Moses who represented the Law, and Elijah who represented the prophets would be brought forth from Abraham’s bosom—not only to hear and speak with Jesus the Christ, but also to hear the voice of the Father speak directly unto them and instruct, invite and command them to hear and listen to His Son. How absolutely fascinating it to think about the fact that not only were Moses and Elijah possibly given an introduction to the Messiah there on the top of the mountain, but both were actually commanded and instructed to hear and listen to Him. There on top of the mountain the Law and the prophets were instructed to hear and listen to the voice of the Messiah as both would speak and point to the manifestation of the Messiah within the earth. Jesus would Himself declare that He did not come to abolish the Law and the prophets, but to fulfill them, and here atop the mountain we find Jesus being transfigured—perhaps with the glory He had with the Father before taking on the form of human flesh—we find Him speaking and interacting with them. What’s more, is that the Father would introduce Jesus—not only as the Christ, but also once more as His beloved Son in whom He was well pleased. Stop and consider this truth for a moment, as not only would Moses and Elijah, and not only would the Law and the prophets hear the voice of the Father, and not only would these two prophets hear the voice of the Father, but they would hear the voice of the Father acknowledging the glory of the Son, as well as the relationship of the Son to the Father. It would be there atop the mountain Jesus’ appearance would be transfigured, and it would be there atop the mountain where the voice of the Father would invite the Law and the prophets to hear and listen to the voice of the eternal Son. It would be there atop the mountain where the voice of the Father would once more speak from the midst of a cloud atop a mountain—the exception this time being both the Father and the Son being manifested at the same time in the company of Moses and Elijah, as well as in the sight of Peter, James and John.

As you continue reading in the gospel narrative of Matthew you will find that as Jesus continued to shew and teach His disciples those things He must suffer, and that He must needs be killed and crucified, He would in turn reveal additional details about what would happen to Him. Having already interacted with the disciples concerning His identity, and having just been transfigured atop the mountain in the company of Peter, James and John Jesus would then declare that He must needs be betrayed, and that the betrayal would lead to His being killed, and that He would be raised from death to life on the third day. Perhaps one of the most remarkable and fascinating truths and concepts surrounding Jesus’ revelation of His suffering, His betrayal, and his death is that with each revelation there would be an emphatic declaration of victory and triumph. If and as you read the words which are found in these various passages within the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew you will find that there was not a single occasion and occurrence when Jesus did not speak of His death, but also in the same encounter and in the breath also speak about His resurrection from death to life. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this, for when you read the words found within this gospel narrative you will quickly discover that although there would be suffering in this life—suffering at the hands of the chief priests, scribes, and elders of Israel—there would also be triumph and victory when the process had run its full length and course. Although Jesus would suffer at the hands of both the religious leaders of His day, and although Jesus would also suffer at the hands of the Romans during that time, we must also note that there was no suffering without and apart from resurrection. In any dialogue that was spoken concerning Jesus’ betrayal, His suffering, and even His death, it would not take place without and apart from the triumph and victory of resurrection. In absolutely every dialogue and discourse Jesus would have with His disciples concerning His suffering and death He would also conclude it with an almost emphatic statement that declared and proclaimed—“But even though I am going to suffer, and even though I am going to be killed and crucified I will be raised from death to life!” This is truly something worth spending time thinking about and considering, for once the suffering was done, and once the suffering had its perfect work in Jesus there would be no more suffering. Once death had done its work and had performed its course and hold on the physical body of Jesus it would and could no longer hold any weight, sway or authority over Him. When Jesus was raised from death to life—not only could suffering no longer touch Him, but neither could death, for Jesus had conquered death, hell and the grave.

Upon continuing to within the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew you will come to the twentieth chapter and will find Jesus journeying to Jerusalem, and while journeying unto this ancient and sacred city He would take the twelve disciples apart in the way, and would once more speak unto them concerning His suffering, concerning His betrayal, concerning His death, as well as His resurrection on the third day. Consider if you will the following words found in the twentieth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew beginning to read with and from the seventeenth verse: “And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn Him to death, and shall deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify Him: and the third day He shall rise again” (Matthew 20:17-19). It’s with this particular revelation the language surrounding Jesus’ suffering and death would take on an entirely different level and tone, for what you will find within these verses is Jesus essentially describing the full process of betrayal, suffering, and death within His life, as well as His resurrection from death to life on the third day. What we find within this passage of Scripture is Jesus beginning with His betrayal into the hands of the scribes and chief priests, and how they would condemn Him to death. It would be in the process of Jesus’ being condemned to death that He would also be delivered into the hands of the Gentiles and sinners who would mock, ridicule, and scourge Him before ultimately crucifying Him. This is worth noting and pointing out, for within this declaration you will not only find Jesus speaking of His suffering in terms of being scourged, but you will also find Him for the first time speaking unto His disciples concerning how He would die. After the encounter in Caesarea Philippi, and after the transfiguration atop the mountain Jesus would speak unto His disciples concerning His suffering, His death, and His resurrection, but now with this revelation would come the additional knowledge and declaration of Jesus’ being condemned to death by the scribes and Pharisees, and as a direct result of His being condemned to death He would be handed over into the hands of sinners. It would be in the hands of those sinners Jesus would be both mocked and scourged before ultimately being crucified. This is worth noting and considering, for this would be the first time Jesus would speak of the cross in direct connection and relation to His own life.

It is worth noting that in the sixteenth chapter of this gospel narrative written and recorded by the apostle Matthew we find Jesus speaking of His suffering many things at the hands of the scribes, the chief priests and the elders of Israel, as well as His subsequent death, however, the only mention to the cross in this particular moment was in direct relation to the disciples and their denying themselves and taking up their cross. Pause for a moment and think about the awesome and incredible reality that although Jesus undoubtedly knew the means and method by which He would be crucified, He would first speak of and reveal the cross as a mark and sign of discipleship. Before Jesus would even speak of crucifixion as the means of His death—and thus revealing that He would be killed upon a cruel Roman tree and cross—He would first speak of the cross as the mark and sign of true discipleship. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this awesome reality, for as certainly and as much as the cross was, still is, and will always be the mark of the death of Jesus the cross, as well as the atonement for our sins, it will also be the mark of true discipleship. I am convinced that just as you cannot speak about the death of Jesus the Christ without and apart from the cross, so also can you not speak about discipleship without and apart from speaking about the cross. Oh there are those who would like to keep the cross as the instrument upon which Jesus was forced to carry to the place of Golgotha, and there are those who would like to keep the cross as the means of Jesus’ death, and who would like to separate the cross from discipleship and from following Jesus. There are those—even within many of our churches and houses of worship—who  have made countless attempts and efforts to separate the cross from discipleship, and from walking with, and following Jesus the Christ, and yet such attempts go against the very heart, the very spirit, and the very message of the gospel.

I sit here today thinking about and considering the words found in the twentieth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew, and I find myself coming face to face with the fact that Jesus’ first ever mention of the cross was not even directly related to His own death, nor was it related to His own suffering. According to the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew we find Jesus’ first mention of the cross as being directly linked and connected to the invitation and call to discipleship. Jesus would emphatically declare unto His disciples that if anyone wished to come after Him they must first deny themselves, take up their cross, and then follow Him. Thus, the cross was not only linked to the practice and discipline of self-denial, but also following Jesus the Christ. It is necessary for us to pay close and careful attention to these words, for these words must be understood in terms of our own call to discipleship, as well as Jesus’ own experience and encounter with the cross. Jesus would declare unto His disciples that if they wished to come after Him they must needs deny themselves, take up and carry their cross, and follow after Him, and later on Jesus would demonstrate unto the disciples the reality of carrying His own cross, as well as the reality of His being nailed to that cross, and the reality of His being crucified and hung upon that cross. We should note that Jesus didn’t merely carry His cross through the streets of Jerusalem unto Golgotha and the place of the skull, but Jesus would carry that cross to the final destination and place of its work. Not only this, but Jesus would carry the cross along the Via Dolorosa until He would ultimately arrive at Golgotha—Golgotha, which was not only the place of the skull, but it would also be the place where the cross was essentially “planted” in the midst of the earth. This concept of “the planting of the cross” is actually something worth noting and pointing out, for not only did Jesus carry His cross along the Via Dolorosa, but He would also carry that place to its final resting place where it would be planted in the midst of the earth. When Jesus would arrive at Golgotha He would have His arms outstretched upon the horizontal beams the cross as they would nail His wrists to it, as well as His feet set upon the vertical beam of the cross where they would pound a spike through them, thus securing Him to the cross. Jesus would have His body fastened and nailed to the cross in the place of the skull, and once His body was nailed in the place of the skull the cross itself would be raised from the earth and essentially planted in that place.

WHEN THE CROSS IS PLANTED IN THE PLACE OF THE SKULL! WHEN THE CROSS IS CARRIED TO THE PLACE OF THE SKULL! THE CROSS WOULD BE CARRIED TO THE PLACE OF THE SKULL AND WOULD ULTIMATELY BE PLANTED IN THAT PLACE! I am absolutely and utterly convinced there is something worth noting and pointing out when reading these words, for when Jesus brought the cross to the place of the skull—not only would He be nailed to the cross in that place, but so also would that very cross be planted in that place. Jesus would be nailed to the cross in the place of the skull, the cross would be planted in the place of the skull, and it would be there in the place of the skull Jesus would hang as all of hell itself would descend upon that mountain to taunt, mock, ridicule and rail against the Son of God. This is something we must needs recognize and understand, for it brings us face to face with perhaps one of the most powerful and necessary works of the cross—namely, its being planted in the place of the skull. It is not enough for the cross to be brought to the place of the skull, but the cross must also be planted in the place of the skull as Jesus Himself accomplishes in that place that which the eternal Father sent Him to carry out and fulfill. Oh that we would recognize and understand that one of the greatest works of and for the cross within our hearts and our lives is its being planted in the place of the skull—in its being planted in our minds. There is not a doubt in my mind that the reality and concept of Jesus’ carrying the cross to the place of the skull—and not only the cross being carried into the place of the skull, but also being planted in the place of the skull—is a powerful picture of the cross being planted within our minds. Moreover, I am convinced that the cross—and the work of Jesus upon the cross—is a powerful picture of the cross being manifested within our own minds. Jesus carried the cross along the Via Dolorosa and would carry it unto the place of the skull where it would be there be planted and would remain planted for six hours before Jesus would ultimately give up the ghost and His body brought down from the cross and buried in the tomb.

I’m sitting here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in the gospel narrative which was written by the apostle Matthew, and I can’t help but think about the fact that in the twentieth and twenty-sixth chapters of the book Jesus would speak and reveal unto His disciples concerning His suffering and His death. It would be in the twentieth and twenty-sixth chapter of the gospel where Jesus would take and transition the conversation and dialogue of His being killed to an entirely different dimension—a dimension where He would not speak of and reveal the means of His death. The first two times Jesus taught and spoke unto His disciples concerning His suffering many things at the hands of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders He would not speak of nor reveal the means of His death—only that He would suffer many things and be killed. It’s interesting to note that although Jesus would not speak of the cross when He first began teaching and speaking about His own suffering and death, He would speak of it in terms of discipleship. This truth must be at the very forefront of our hearts and minds when we think and speak about discipleship, for it wonderfully and powerfully points to the reality that we cannot—regardless of how much we try—separate the cross from discipleship and following Him. When we come to the words which are found in the twentieth and twenty-sixth chapters of the gospel narrative which was written by the apostle Matthew we find Jesus speaking concerning His death, however, this time around we find Him actually speaking of His death as being directly tied to the cross. Please do not miss the incredible significance and importance of this, for when you although Jesus would initially speak of the cross He would speak about it in terms of discipleship and walking with and following Him. Jesus would originally speak unto the disciples and declare that if they sought to come after Him they needed to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow after Him, and it wouldn’t be until later when Jesus would not only link the cross to His own death, but would also carry His own cross and ultimately die upon it. Jesus would both carry His cross unto the place of the skull, and would ultimately die upon it—not merely to deliver us from the responsibility of carrying our own cross, but to show unto and provide us with an example of how we are to carry our cross unto that perfect place of fulfillment and planting.

CARRYING THE CROSS TO THE PLACE OF PLANTING! The reality of Jesus carrying the cross along the Via Dolorosa unto the place of the skull is something that we must carefully consider, for while it was true that Jesus would initially link the cross to discipleship and following Him, He would ultimately use the cross as the means of His own death. Jesus would carry His own cross and would bring it unto the place of the skull, and it was in that place of the skull where the cross would be planted. It would be in that place of planting Jesus not only fulfill that which the Father had called and ordained for Him, but it would be in the place of the skull and on the cross Jesus would show us what the ultimate fulfillment of the cross would be. It would be in the place of the skull Jesus would show us the ultimate manifestation of the cross which is and has always been death within our hearts and lives. We must needs pay close attention to these truths and these realities, for the truth of Jesus’ carrying the cross and dying upon the cross further explain and reveal the ultimate expression of discipleship, which is not only taking up and carrying our cross, but also carrying it unto the place of fruition and planting in order that the work might be fulfilled within our hearts and lives. It is absolutely necessary that we pay close attention the words which Jesus the Christ spoke and revealed unto His disciples concerning His own death, for the words which He spoke would not only reveal His death in the midst of the earth, but would also clearly speak to the disciples concerning their taking up their cross, their denying themselves, and their following Jesus. Jesus would carry His cross as perhaps one of the greatest expressions of walking with and following the Father, and it would be His carrying the cross that would be the truest and ultimate expression of what we need to do as disciples and followers of Him. What’s more, is that Jesus didn’t merely call and invite us to take up our cross, but He showed us what taking up and carrying that cross would and should look like. Jesus would take up and carry His cross, and would carry that cross unto the place of the skull, for it’s ultimately in the place of the skull where the greatest work and the greatest manifestation and demonstration of the cross takes place within our lives. Perhaps the single greatest questions we must needs ask ourselves is whether or not we are willing, and whether or not we are actively taking up the cross which has been given unto us, and whether or not that cross is having its perfect work within our hearts and lives.

Perhaps one of the most intriguing realities surrounding Jesus’ words which He taught and spoke unto His disciples concerning His subsequent suffering and death is that in the first two encounters He would have with His disciples He would speak of His death, but would not yet at that time reveal the means in which He would die. It wouldn’t be until the twentieth chapter—four chapters later within the gospel narrative spoken by the apostle Matthew—that Jesus would begin to use the language of crucifixion. It’s worth noting that the third and fourth times Jesus taught and spoke unto His disciples concerning His death He would speak of and reveal the means of His death, which would be crucifixion. Undoubtedly the disciples would have been very much aware of the Roman act of crucifixion, and how the Romans would use it to not only torture, but also kill those who violated its laws. It would be the third and fourth time Jesus spoke unto His disciples He would directly link the cross unto His death—a reality that has a tremendous amount of meaning when you think about the fact that earlier on in Caesarea Philippi Jesus would emphatically declare and proclaim unto His disciples that if any wished to come after Him they must deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Him. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this truth, for before the cross was ever a symbol of the death of Jesus it was a mark of discipleship within the life of those who sought to come after and follow Jesus. More often than not we tend to think of the cross as the means of Jesus’ death, and the instrument which Jesus used to fulfill the divine work of salvation, redemption and atonement for mankind in the midst of the earth. The truth of the matter is that as much as it is true the cross is in fact the means in which Jesus died and fulfilled the divine work of the Father in bringing about the justification, the salvation, the redemption, and the atonement according to the will of the Father, it would also be the mark and means of true discipleship. This truth and reality must be carefully and completely understood, for as certainly and as truly as the cross is and was the means of the death and crucifixion of Jesus the Christ, it was, has always been, and will always be the means of our self-denial, our coming after and our following Jesus. The cross is more than merely a symbol of the death of Jesus the Christ, and when Jesus carried His cross along the Via Dolorosa unto Golgotha—it wasn’t merely a journey He took with the cross that we might not have to, but rather a powerful lesson and example of what carrying the cross would indeed and would in fact look like.

What makes this narrative of carrying the cross—even dying upon the cross—so incredible captivating and powerful is when you think about and consider the tremendous reality that the cross itself was entirely and altogether different from the suffering that would precede it. If you read and study the gospel narratives which were written concerning the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ you will find that Jesus wasn’t even introduced to the cross until after He had been falsely accused in the midst of the Sanhedrin, punched and smacked therein, as well as condemned to death by the scribes, the chief priests and elders of Israel. What’s more, is that Jesus wouldn’t even see—much less be introduced to the cross upon which He would die—until after He had been handed over to the Romans to be scourged, mocked, and ridiculed. The cross would not even be introduced to Jesus until after the crown of thorns would be placed upon His head, until after He would receive the scourging of the Romans in the Praetorium, and after He would be sentenced to death by Pilate. This is important for us to recognize and realize, for it seems to suggest the tremendous reality that the cross itself would be separate and distinguishable from the suffering Jesus would face and experience before the cross. THE SUFFERING BEFORE THE CROSS! THE CROSS AND THE WORK OF SUFFERING! It’s important for us to realize and recognize that the cross would not be introduced into the life of Jesus the Christ until AFTER suffering had its perfect work in the life of Jesus. The cross would inevitably be a part of the death of Jesus the Christ, and we could very well declare that the cross indeed a part of the ultimate suffering of Jesus the Christ, however, I would be more inclined to declare and speak concerning the cross that it was more closely and directly linked to the death of Jesus, and that suffering was entirely and altogether separate from it. It would be the betrayal of Judas which would lead to the false accusation against Jesus, it would be the false accusation against Jesus that would lead to His being condemned to death, and it would be His being condemned to death that would lead to the beginning of His suffering at the hands of the Romans. It would be in the hands of the Romans Jesus would be scourged with whips which were laced with chips of bone and glass. This is something we must needs recognize and understand, for when we speak of the cross which Jesus carried—and not only carried, but also died upon—we must recognize and understand that the cross itself is and was a symbol of His death, but that there was a separate work of suffering that would take place before the cross would finally be introduced.

THE WORK BEFORE THE CROSS! THE WORK BEFORE THE CROSS IS PRESENTED TO YOU! THE CROSS IS COMING, BUT FIRST—THE SUFFERING! Jesus knew that the cross would indeed come and that it would be manifested within His life, and yet that cross would not appear and would not manifest until the work of suffering had its perfect work within the life of Jesus the Christ. The cross would and could not be manifested until AFTER Jesus had suffered at the hands of the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders, as well as at the hands of the Romans. The cross would ultimately and inevitably come and be manifested within the life of Jesus the Christ, however, that cross would not come, nor would it be manifested until the suffering would run and complete its course. This is actually something that is truly unique when you think about it, for there might have been the temptation to desire the cross be manifested—and even be manifested before its time and before Jesus was Himself ready—and yet the cross would and could not be manifested until the appointed time. Jesus would Himself need to be prepared for the cross through suffering, for it was only after He had been prepared for the cross through and by suffering the cross would actually be manifested within His life. I am absolutely and completely convinced that the same reality is indeed true within our hearts and lives, as before the cross is manifested among us we need to be first be prepared and perfected by suffering. PREPARED AND PERFECTED BY SUFFERING! PREPARED AND PERFECTED THROUGH SUFFERING! IT IS THE SUFFERING THAT PREPARES US FOR THE MANIFESTATION OF THE CROSS! There is a tendency to want to hurry up and rush the process and preparation of suffering that the cross itself might be manifested in our lives, and yet the truth of the matter is that this simply is not and cannot the case. The cross cannot and will not be manifested within our hearts and lives until after the process and preparation of suffering had indeed taken its perfect work and course within our hearts and lives.

We know that in the garden of Gethsemane Jesus asked the Father if it was possible that this cup be taken from Him, and I have to ask myself what the greater struggle would have been for Jesus. In all reality, I would dare say that death itself was easy, and death itself would essentially be a quick process, for even Scripture would reveal how after Jesus declared “It is finished” He would give up the ghost and die there upon the cross. We know that Jesus would hang there upon the cross for six hours as darkness covered and blanketed the earth before He would ultimately give up the ghost and yield Himself fully and completely to the work and will of the Father. With this being said, I would dare say that death in and of itself was easy, for death took place in a moment’s time, and quite possibly in the blink of an eye. We know that as soon as Jesus made that final and emphatic declaration He would Himself give up the ghost as His body would hang their lifeless upon that cross. It is with this being said I would like to call and draw your attention to the awesome and tremendous reality that what if death wasn’t the ultimate thing which Jesus Himself prayed for and prayed about in the garden. What if when Jesus asked the Father that this cup might be passed from Him, He wasn’t speaking of the suffering that would be directly linked and connected to the cross. What if when Jesus prayed unto the Father and asked if it was possible that the cup pass from Him He wasn’t speaking of the suffering that would come before the cross. The author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews would write how Jesus—for the joy that was set before Him—would endure the cross and despise the shame thereof. The author of the epistle which was written unto the Hebrews emphatically explained that Jesus would indeed endure the cross, and would despise the shame of it for the joy that was set before Him, and I am convinced that with this in mind we most likely can deduce that what Jesus prayed about in the garden was not necessarily about death, but about the suffering that would take place and precede death. Before the cross would be manifested within the life of Jesus suffering would need to have its perfect work as it would need to prepare and perfect Him for the cross. You wouldn’t think that we could be prepared for the cross by and through suffering, however, the narrative of the suffering and death of Jesus the Christ points to the awesome and incredible reality that Jesus was prepared for the cross by suffering, as it would be through suffering He would be perfected that He might actually face and endure the cross.

As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I feel it is absolutely necessary to draw and call your attention to the awesome and incredible reality that when we think about the cross we must recognize and understand that suffering is the means by which we are prepared for and introduced to the cross. We have indeed been instructed to deny ourselves and take up our cross, and yet even with that being said I am convinced that we must needs recognize the awesome truth that we are prepared for the cross by and through suffering, and that the cross is essentially a product and result of suffering. It is absolutely critical that we understand and come face to face with this awesome and incredible reality, for although Jesus would declare unto His disciples that anyone who desires to come after Him must deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Him, the cross within His own life would not be manifested until suffering had already achieved its perfect work within His life. THE PROCESS AND PREPARATION OF SUFERING FOR THE CROSS! THE PROCESS AND PREPARATION OF SUFFERING WHICH PERFECTS US FOR THE CROSS! What’s more, is I would dare say that suffering was inevitable for Jesus, but even with that being said I am convinced that it was His bearing up under and His enduring the weight and burden of suffering that would allow Him to be entrusted with the cross. ENTRUSTED WITH THE CROSS AS WE ARE PREPARED FOR IT THROUGH SUFFERING! How are we able to be entrusted with the cross we have been called to carry and bear? We are entrusted with the burden and weight of the cross by and as a direct result of our being prepared for it through suffering. It is the suffering itself which prepares and perfects us for the cross—and not only the carrying of the cross, but also for the actual act of dying upon the cross. It is with this in mind I leave you with the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the sixth chapter of the New Testament epistle which was written unto the saints at Rome, as well as the words which are written in the second chapter of the New Testament epistle written unto the churches in Galatia:

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 dieth 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 yourselves 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 righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:3-14).

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I thought the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: neverhtless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” (Galatians 2:16-21).

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