Saturday, 7 April 2012

Jesus carried his cross vicariously

Jesus carried his cross on your behalf and mine; on behalf of those who followed him, but had deserted him; on behalf of those who had condemned him to death; on behalf of those who had welcomed him into Jerusalem with one breath and cried, ‘Crucify him’ with the next breath; on behalf of those who were unaware of his existence.

‘Christ bore our sins in his body on the tree.’

‘He was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and by his stripes we are healed.’

When Jesus spoke of his disciples ‘taking up their cross’, he was not just referring to their attitude to their own lives but he was also urging them to take up the cross of others, to bear the burdens of others. In Gal 6:2 Paul urges his readers:

‘bear one another's burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ.’

His readers would have been familiar with the law by which a Roman soldier could force any member of a subject people to carry his pack, but Christ urges us voluntarily and vicariously to shoulder the weight of those who are at any point in their lives too weak to carry on.

It is interesting that Christ, in the weakness of his flesh, was unable to carry the weight of his own cross all the way to Calvary. Tradition has it that Jesus stumbled a number of times before Simon of Cyrene was pressed into service by the guards that accompanied him. Up to this point in the story Simon is unheard of, and nobody is sure whether he was a disciple or not at the point at which he was commandeered to carry the cross of Christ.

However, his sons were later known to be members of the Church and it is possible that carrying the cross on that Good Friday, led to a life of discipleship for Simon and for his family.

Christ, who shared our humanity in its fullness, also needed the strong arms of another, to bear his cross and carry its load, when he came to the end of his physical strength.

{     How often when we despair do we need someone to hope for us?
{     How often when we lose faith do we need someone to believe for us?
{     How often when we cannot see the path before us  because of our tears, do we need someone to help us discern the way and walk with us?
{     How often when we cannot pray, do we rely on the prayers of others?
{     How often when we lose the physical health and strength to look after ourselves, do we depend on the well-being and the good will of others?

If Christ, in his humanity, needed Simon's strength, surely it is no surprise that those who follow in his footsteps will sometimes need the strength of others who are walking with them. And so Christ bids us take up not just our own cross, whatever that might be, but the cross of those around us,

{     the cross of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and
{     the cross of our brothers and sisters in the world.

Christ bore his cross for those who knew him and for those who ignored him.

There are vast numbers of people in our world

{     who suffer at the hands of the powerful, of those who exploit them;
{     people who are imprisoned without recourse to proper justice;
{     people who suffer at the hands of violent minorities;
{     people who have no voice, who have nothing with which to fight for themselves;
{     people without strength and without hope.

As we remember the Christ who carried his cross on behalf of those who were powerless against sin and death and evil, let us hear afresh his call to take up our cross - the cross that presents itself in various guises

{     in our own lives;
{     in the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ;
{     and in the life of the world around us.

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