************ Sermon on Luke 23:26-31 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 7, 2004
We are in the season of Lent. We are looking at the people and events that lead to the cross of Christ. Knowing I was preaching on Simon this morning, I was really interested in how Mel Gibson's movie "The Passion of the Christ" would depict the scene in front of us. How many have seen the movie?
Those who saw the movie know that Gibson used "artistic liberty" in portraying Simon. In one way he was faithful to Scripture; in another way he went beyond Scripture.
I Simon Bears the Cross
A In our Scripture passage we see Jesus being led through the streets of Jerusalem, along the route now known as the Via Dolorosa, "the way of sorrow." His was a death march to be crucified outside the city. We're told in the book of Hebrews:
(Heb 13:11-12) The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. (12) And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.Jesus was led out of the city to die; not as a martyr but as a substitute; He suffered and died for us to pay for and remove the penalty of our sins.
B It was customary for condemned criminals to carry the cross to the place of execution. Jesus started the walk to Golgotha carrying His cross but He has been so weakened by a lack of sleep and food and drink and by the scourging – a brutal whipping which normally preceded crucifixion and occasionally caused death – that one of the Roman soldiers abruptly forced a passer-by to carry the cross (vs 26). Certainly no soldier would or could stoop to assist a struggling prisoner.
C The person chosen was Simon of Cyrene. Cyrene is a town in what is now Libya, North Africa, some 800 miles from Jerusalem. History records for us that at the time of Jesus there was a large Jewish community in Cyrene. Simon must have been a common Jewish name because there are 8 different Simons mentioned in the pages of the New Testament. This Simon must have been a prominent member of the Jewish community in Cyrene because he could afford the journey to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. Also, it would be in character for a Roman soldier to embarrass a prominent Jewish man with the demeaning task of carrying the cross of a condemned man.
D So Simon was forced to share the Lord's journey to Golgotha. Taking the cross, Simon must have became covered by Jesus' blood – something portrayed by Gibson in the movie. According to the Jews this blood made Simon ceremonially unclean and unable to participate in the Passover or Temple worship. By way of contrast, the book of Hebrews says it is the exact opposite for Christians:
(Heb 10:19-20) Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, (20) by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body ...Being sprinkled with the blood doesn't bar us from God and worship; rather, it makes us fit for God and worship.
According to Scripture, the blood of Jesus purifies us from all sin (1 Jn 1:7). We are brought near to God through the blood of Christ (Eph 2:13). His blood is the atoning sacrifice that covers our sin and pays our debt and removes our guilt and so justifies us with God (Rom 3:25; 5:9). As we were reminded in the movie, Jesus said "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (Jn 14:6).
E Yet, all of you should know that this happens only "through faith in his blood" (Rom 3:25). If we don't have faith in Christ and His blood then we don't have salvation even if we are physically covered with His blood. Now, there is no hint in Scripture that Simon was a follower of Jesus or even knew of the Lord. How tragic if he who was physically covered with Christ's blood did not have the spiritual benefits of Christ's blood.
In this season of Lent and as we prepare our hearts to take the Lord Supper next Sunday, we all need to examine our hearts to make sure we have faith in His blood. For, apart from this faith we cannot be saved and we cannot partake.
A We look at Simon and we are to see in him a picture of the ideal disciple. Remember what Jesus said?
(Lk 9:23) If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.Followers of Christ are expected to be cross-bearers even as Simon was a cross-bearer.
(Lk 14:27) And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
What does this mean?
B Those watching Jesus on the way to Golgotha knew exactly what those words meant. They knew the cross and the way to the cross meant unbelievable pain, suffering, and death. They knew it meant the Ancient World's equivalent of the electric chair, the gallows, the most cruel punishment the world had devised, a form of horrible torture used only for the worst of criminals. Luke reminds us this morning that this also happens to Jesus' followers. Jesus wants His disciples – and us too – to realize that we must walk the same path as He. In fact, the Apostle Peter encourages us to be like Jesus:
(1 Pet 4:1) Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.Denial and cross-bearing are very real. This is what happens when people believe in and identify with Jesus. They become like Jesus.
(1 Pet 4:13) But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
C Many Christians do not understand or misinterpret the cross-bearing that Jesus talks of. They talk glibly about some physical pain, ache, or deformity as the cross they have to bear. The Apostle Paul, for instance, speaks a couple of times about the thorn in his flesh – some sort of physical affliction that tormented him. But that was not Paul's cross. His cross was the humiliation, the pain, the suffering he endured for the sake of Christ. He talks about this cross when he says:
(2 Cor 11:24-27) Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. (25) Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, (26) I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. (27) I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.All of this suffering the apostle went through for the sake of Christ and the Gospel.
The cross we are called to bear is not arthritis, poor eyesight or hearing. It is not cancer, diabetes, a cold or flue. It is not a personal disability or a disabled child. It is not an unhappy marriage or a sick marriage partner. It is not a broken relationship with a child or a brother. It is not a family member in prison or hooked on drugs or alcohol. Instead, what is meant is suffering that has to do with our relationship to Christ. Let me emphasize this: the cross we Christians are called to bear is suffering because of our relationship to and with Christ.
D Everyone who has a relationship with Jesus – the disciples, the first century believers, you, me – can expect and should expect a cross. I think of what Paul writes to Timothy:
(2 Tim 3:12) In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted ...I think also of the words of Jesus to His disciples:
(Jn 15:18-19) "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. (19) If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you."
Through Simon, Luke reminds us this morning that Christ's disciples and followers bear crosses. If we are faithful the world will sooner or later offer us a cross to bear. Just as Christians are in the business of following Jesus so the world is in the business of offering crosses. As Jesuit activist Daniel Berrigan once said, "If you want to follow Jesus, you had better look good on wood." You don't have to seek the cross for it will seek you. The cross doesn't expect you but you can expect it.
Topic: Cross-BearingYou don't have to buy the cross because you will get it for free.
Title: Buying a Cross
Clarence Jordan, author of the "Cotton Patch" New Testament translation, was getting a red-carpet tour of another minister's church. With pride the minister pointed to the rich, imported pews and luxurious decorations.
As they stepped outside, darkness was falling, and a spotlight shone on a huge cross atop the steeple.
"That cross alone cost us ten thousand dollars," the minister said with a satisfied smile.
"You got cheated," said Jordan. "Times were when Christians could get them for free."
Do you follow Jesus? Are you, by grace, thinking of following Jesus? Let me tell you, it is costly to follow Christ – it is going to cost you self-denial and a cross.
Even though we don't know where Simon stood in terms of a personal relationship with Jesus, he does remind us of this.
E You should also realize what is at stake. When it comes to following Christ – even at the cost of self-denial and a cross – we don't have a choice. It is a case of life everlasting or death everlasting; it is a case of Christ acknowledging you or Christ denying you. At stake is your soul and my soul and the souls of the disciples and the women of Jerusalem and the soul of Simon too.
Are you one of Christ's disciples? Will you be eating the bread and drinking the fruit of the vine next week? Then you need to follow Jesus even if it costs you self-denial and a cross.
III Jesus' Compassion
A We look at Christ on the way to Golgotha. He staggered along through the narrow and twisted streets of Jerusalem. We see Simon carrying the cross for Him. We see and hear the cries of the crowd – some were there for the spectacle, others were friends and followers. Some were jeering. Some were crying and weeping. Some were praying. Some were exultant. Gibson did a good job of portraying all of this in his movie.
B Jesus turned to the crowd. In particular, He turned to the women and said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and your children" (vs 28). His words must have startled them and caught them off guard. He was saying that their situation was more serious and tragic than His own.
Imagine the situation. Christ was weakened by a lack of sleep and food and drink and the loss of blood from His whipping. He was only several hours from His own death. Yet, He says their situation is worse than His. What is He talking about? What does He have in mind?
We see that the Lord Jesus didn't think just of Himself. He didn't think just of His own pain and suffering. There was something more important – the souls of the people in the crowd.
Jesus had no need for self-pity because He was fulfilling His destiny. He was doing what the Father sent Him to do. This is not to deny the pain of His suffering and death. But even more important was the response of the crowd. Jesus did not want their pity; He wanted their repentance and their faith and their obedience and their cross-bearing. And, He knew He was not going to get it from most of them. Certainly not from the leaders of the Jews. Certainly not from most of those in the crowd. Maybe not even from Simon.
"Do not weep for me; weep for yourselves." Weep for yourselves because those who don't repent and believe in Jesus, because those who are not covered by His blood, face destruction and damnation.
"Do not weep for me; weep for yourselves." Does Jesus say this to you and to me? Or, are we one of those who repent and believe and bear His cross?
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