“As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus.” —Luke 23:26
Ever since it was sung a few years ago at the memorial service for my mother, “The Old Rugged Cross” by George Bennard has echoed and reechoed in my heart and mind.
“on a hill far away…
emblem of suffering and shame…
(Jesus) for sinners slain…”
During earlier years in my life, I often wondered, When did Jesus know about the cross? As an adult when he read in the synagogue? As a youth in the temple? As a child in Nazareth? As an infant lying in a manger bed?
Later on in my adult years, I realized that Jesus would have known about the cross before he was even born. Wow! A cross-like shadow over his life?
Scripture talks about that cross Jesus journeyed toward. Scripture tells us what Jesus said about crosses that we would experience walking along life’s way with him.
One of the most pivotal and profound accounts about the cross, for me, is Luke 23:26.
We can visualize something of what it must have been like to carry the cross like Simon: sweating under its heaviness, seeing its shadow growing ever larger, seeking a reason why he must carry this unasked-for burden, searching for a place to leave it.
Yet, we just keep on going … following behind Jesus…learning, finally, that where we belong is “beneath the cross!”
One of the many hymns focusing on the cross has these encouraging words in the third verse: “I take, O cross, thy shadow for my abiding place” (ELW #338). Here is a poem I wrote:
A cross carried by a man—
A man walking
a cross is too heavy a burden …
the man stumbles!
Fear because of a cross
amongst the crowd—
will no one help the weary man?
Lift the heavy burden!
go, share the cross!
Then, a cross stands empty
in the darkness
on a lonely hill.
A cross is gone now, the hill remains.
Look! Look again!
the cross is for you!
O God, thank you for the cross! Holy Spirit, thank you for being like a shadow, strengthening us to carry one another’s crosses. Jesus, in your name, we pray. Amen.