Feeling the Weight of It – Extra!!!!

simon of cyreneLuke 23:26

On him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus.

As a pastor I try to read and study a passage from as many view points as possible.  Recently I posted “Feeling the Weight of It” regarding Simon of Cyrene‘s carrying of the cross of Jesus.  I looked at it from several angles, but as is often the case, a few weeks later, found another yet another possible preaching point.  The following is from Charles Spurgeon‘s daily devotional from Morning and Evening and this is a “pastorpresnell” wordpress extra!

Charles Spurgeon:

charles spurgeonWe see in Simon’s carrying the cross a picture of the work of the Church throughout all generations; she is the cross bearer after Jesus. Mark then, Christian, Jesus does not suffer so as to exclude your suffering. He bears a cross, not that you may escape it, but that you may endure it. Christ exempts you from sin, but not from sorrow. Remember that, and expect to suffer.

But let us comfort ourselves with this thought, that in our case, as in Simon’s, it is not our cross, but Christ’s cross which we carry. When you are molested for your piety; when your religion brings the trial of cruel mockings upon you, then remember it is not your cross, it is Christ’s cross; and how delightful is it to carry the cross of our Lord Jesus!

You carry the cross after him. You have blessed company; your path is marked with the footprints of your Lord. The mark of his blood red shoulder is upon that heavy burden. ‘Tis his cross, and he goes before you as a shepherd goes before his sheep. Take up your cross daily, and follow him.

Do not forget, also, that you bear this cross in partnership. It is the opinion of some that Simon only carried one end of the cross, and not the whole of it. That is very possible; Christ may have carried the heavier part, against the transverse beam, and Simon may have borne the lighter end. Certainly it is so with you; you do but carry the light end of the cross, Christ bore the heavier end.

And remember, though Simon had to bear the cross for a very little while, it gave him lasting honour. Even so the cross we carry is only for a little while at most, and then we shall receive the crown, the glory. Surely we should love the cross, and, instead of shrinking from it, count it very dear, when it works out for us “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”

Check out these related Scriptures (John 15:18-25/1 Peter 2:21-23/Philippians 1:29/Mark 10:38-40/2 Timothy 1:8-12) and have a blessed day!

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Did Easter Happen to You?

From Tablet 2 1622 Corinthians 5:17

After a Maundy Thursday communion service, a pastor sat with his small child who was asking what it all meant.  The Thursday meal was described as the last meal Jesus had with His friends.  Good Friday was the day Jesus was killed.  Easter was a wonderful day, because that was the day God raised Jesus from the dead.

Then the boy asked, “Daddy, will Easter ever happen to me?”  What a question:  “Will Easter ever happen to me?”

Great question!  Let me phrase to you in this way:  “Did Easter happen to you?”  I’m not asking if you went to church last Sunday or if you consumed a chocolate bunny or went to a fancy buffet.  I’m not even asking what you did on March 31st of this year.  (2013)  I’m asking:  Have you ever experienced the resurrection that occurs when Jesus becomes the Lord of your life?  Do you have a resurrection story?

Paul says:  “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”  We come to life in Him.

Recently came across the testimony of Nard Pugyao:  “In March of 1956 (when I was about 6), a tall, pale, white man stumbled into my home village of Dibagat in the northern jungles of the Philippine island of Luzon. The man didn’t speak our language, so our elders asked him the best they knew how, “Why are you here?”

“I’ve come to learn your language,” he said. “I’d like to write it down and then give you God’s Word in your language.”

“Who is your God?” the elders asked.

“He’s the God of Heaven and earth,” the man answered. “He’s the Creator of the universe. He created you, too.”

“Is he powerful?” the elders probed. “More powerful than the spirits that have controlled our lives from the beginning of time? Is he more powerful than our ancestors, the head-hunters?”

“Yes, he’s more powerful.”

Hopeful, we started teaching this man, Dick Roe, our language. Maybe his God could free us from the spirits.

When I was about 13, Dick had to return to the United States to raise support for his ministry. But before he went back, he translated the Gospel of Mark and gave me a copy. While he was gone, I started reading the Bible for the first time, beginning with the Easter story and continuing through chapter 16. Sitting on top of a rock, I read the Gospel of Mark in my heart language. It felt like I was actually there, seeing the characters.

But the further I read, the more distressed I felt. A mob of people came to get Jesus out of the Garden of Gethsemane. What did he do wrong? I read as fast as I could. They accused him of all kinds of false things. They mocked him, spat on him, beat him, and took him before Pilate. Then the scourge and the crown of thorns. It was excruciating to read that they forced him to carry a wooden cross and then nailed him to it.

Deep in my heart, a hatred of God swelled. I shook my fist and shouted: “I hate you, God, for being so powerless! Why should I believe in a powerless God like you?” With all my strength I threw the Gospel of Mark down to the rocks and started walking home. I couldn’t understand why God wouldn’t protect his own Son. Our headhunters defended us to the death. Because of them, no one could touch us. I wanted a god like that—someone who would protect me from the spirits that demanded we sacrifice our cows, chickens, pigs, and dogs. This God didn’t even save his own Son.

Suddenly, God reached down into my heart. “Nard, don’t you understand?” I heard him say. “That’s how much I love you. I gave my Son on your behalf.” For the first time, I understood grace. I understood how much God loved me.

“God, if you love me that much,” I prayed, “I want to give you my life, my heart. It’s all yours.” I went back and picked up my Gospel, brushed it off, and sat back on that rock to see what happened next. It was an incredible moment as I read that Jesus rose from the grave on the third day. Nobody in all of Dibagat, nobody from among the Isnag people, had ever risen from the grave. The resurrection story changed my life.  (Nard Pugyao  (“Penetrating Power,” Decision (July-August 2006), p. 18; ©2006 Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, used by permission, all rights reserved)

Don’t throw the Bible when you get to the end of the Gospel.  There is a resurrection coming.  Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ… and let Easter happen to you!

Feeling the Weight of It

simon of cyreneMark 15:21

21 They pressed into service a passer-by coming from the country, Simon of Cyrene (the father of Alexander and Rufus), to bear His cross.

Simon was pressed into service (a Greek word commonly used of coercing slaves and animals in work).  It was an example of  Rome’s power over a subjugated people.   They could lay the flat of their sword on your shoulder and compel you to go one mile carrying their baggage.  Jesus refers to this when he teaches:  If you are compelled to walk one mile, walk two.  We call that:  “Going the extra mile.”  Not sure how far Simon had to go… but it had to be the longest mile or two he ever took.

There were two parts to the cross, the patibulum (the beam) and the stipes (the post).  The victim was to carry his own patibulum to the site of the crucifixion site.  It was a heavy weight… particularly for Jesus who was losing too much blood from his flogging and the ghastly “coronation” he endured by the soldiers.

Simon was from Cyrene which was on the north coast of Africa.  This may indicate that Simon was a man of color.  Mark includes two other names:  Alexander and Rufus (known by the readers?)  Mark doesn’t name a lot of people in his Gospel.  Here are 3 names in one verse.  We do know that Rufus was a member of the early church (Romans 16:13).  It is not much of a stretch to imagine that Simon of Cyrene might have been the first disciple to literally follow the command of Christ to “take up his cross and follow.”

How about you?  Have you taken up yours?  Are you following the suffering Jesus?

You might ask me:  How do I do that?  How will I know if I have done it?  You will know it because you will notice the increased weight.

Heard a story recently about a business man who visited the great Passion Play in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.  Afterward he went backstage to meet the actor who portrayed Jesus. As they talked, the man saw the cross that the actor carried in the play.
Before the actor had a chance to stop him, the business man handed over his camera and said, “Hey, take a picture of me carrying the cross.” And He bent over and tried in vain to lift the huge cross to his shoulders.
With sweat rolling down his face, he turned in frustration to the actor and said, “I thought it would be hollow; why is it so heavy?”
With a smile of compassion the actor answered, “If I could not feel the weight of it, it would be impossible to play the part.”

Are you like Simon?

Are you devoted, faithful, embracing of suffering, vigilant, ultimately bearing the suffering of others?  Count the cost; take up your cross; feel the weight of it all.

The Main Event: Justice vs. Mercy

James 2:12-13

Quick!  What fictional character said:  We do not train to be merciful here. Mercy is for the weak. Here, in the streets, in competition: A man confronts you, he is the enemy. An enemy deserves no mercy.”?

Those were the words of John Keese, the head instructor of the Cobra Kai karate school in the original The Karate Kid movie.  (1984)  So different are the words of James:  “… judgement without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.  Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

In no place is mercy’s triumph over justice more visible than on Calvary’s cross.  It was there that justice was served… but mercy won the day.

Eugene Peterson writes:  “…forgiveness is the last word.  I take no interest in eliminating the tension between justice and forgiveness by taking justice off the table.  …  But I am interested in reintroducing the priority of this Jesus-prayed forgiveness into our lives.  In matters of sin and injustice and evil, the last prayer of Jesus  (“forgive them, they know not what they do”)  is not for justice but for forgiveness. …  Assuming that the criminal crucified next to Jesus was receiving a just death sentence (he said as much himself), the sentence was not revoked in Jesus’ prayer.  The criminal died for his crime.  But forgiveness trumped justice.  It always does.  (Tell it Slant, pp. 247, 248.)

Having received such mercy, we need to be extending this mercy generously to those around us…   to the co-worker who has done us wrong… to the friend that has assasinated our character… to the family members that took advantage of us.  Find mercy to give them, by reflecting on the mercy YOU have been given.  It is time to enroll in the Jesus academy of mercy and to drop out of Cobra Kai.