Friday, 6 April 2012

Jesus shouldered his cross voluntarily

Having been condemned to die, the Roman soldiers would have used physical coercion to ensure that a reluctant prisoner carried his cross to the place of execution.

Jesus needed no such persuasion. In the Garden of Gethsemane he had contemplated the cross in its grim reality and in the weakness of his human nature, he had shrunk from it. Jesus shared that same fear of death that so often makes us unable to look it squarely in the face.

‘If it be possible let this cup pass from me.’

Jesus prayed to be released from the cross, but having wrestled with his own weakness, and with discerning the will of his Father, he shouldered it willingly, without complaint, held to his fate by the love which he bore for his Father and for you and me, fastened to the cross in the faith that God would be there in that darkness and would bring good out of his anguish.

As Christians we sometimes find ourselves shrinking from circumstances and situations that we face:

{     a debilitating or life threatening sickness
{     the untimely death of someone we love
{     a handicap that limits our freedom to do and be what we would like to do and be.

And it is with an air of weary resignation that people sometimes refer to these things as a cross which they must bear. A cross to be reluctantly shouldered.

I think the way in which Christ approached his cross has something to say to us, when we find ourselves in that kind of situation.

It is all right to pray for release. Suffering is not something which God delights to give to his children. Life is not some kind of ‘sufferathon’ with a prize for the one who suffers most. Suffering is an intruder, an unavoidable intruder into the harmony of life as God created it and intended it to be.

{     It is all right to acknowledge our weakness and inability to face some of the things that life throws at us.
{     It is all right to pray that this cup should pass from us.

But if having wrestled with our weakness, and having wrestled with God, we still face the inevitability of the path before us, we need to ‘take up’ our cross.

Not passively submitting to life's hardships, but positively summoning our limited resources and God's infinite resources, so that whatever our experience may be, it becomes creative for us and for those around us. Faith displayed amidst great difficulty can exert an amazing power on people of little or no faith. It is an amazing witness to the faithfulness of God and it has the power to soften the hardest human heart and encourage the faintest human spirit.

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