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Take Up Your Cross

In our lessons this morning, Isaac takes up the Wood for his sacrifice, and Christ tells us to take up our cross daily, just as he would take it up.

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One of the points of having a church calendar with times of the year when some are joyful, some seem darker, and some seem plain, is that it reflects our lives. Sometimes, we are joyful, sometimes we are frustrated. And God is there all along. Lent is one of those times where we reflect how God is with us in our down times, sick and struggles.

We even see it in music. Sometimes we like happy, uplifting songs(I love), sometimes happy people drive us crazy. Christmas songs are joyful, Lent, not so much as it’s usually written in “minor keys.” (Sample keys?)

This morning, for Lent, we are continuing our trip to the Cross, and we have Christ’s words that we have to face death and go with Him.

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

For some context, I want to look our Old Testament lesson as a type of carrying the cross. Two weeks ago, I shared how the Gospel writers, especially Matthew, likes to show what are “types.” The message of the Gospel sits concealed in the Old Testament, but it is revealed in Christ, (New) so we can look back and see God’s plan all along. Surprise to everyone but Him, even though we see it clearly! V. 6 says

Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together.

To test him, God told Abraham to take his son Isaac to the mountain and sacrifice him there. Many times, lessons from Genesis 22 focus on trust. Abraham trusted God could resurrect Isaac according to the book of Hebrews. But to tie in with our Gospel lesson, and Jesus’ command to take our cross and follow Him, I want to look at how Isaac willingly and obediently carried the wood for his own sacrifice.

The Bible doesn’t give his age, a little math shows that Isaac was about twenty-five years old at the time of God calling Abraham to make this sacrifice. This was also the teaching of the Jewish scholars and historians at the time of Jesus.

However old he was, Isaac couldn’t have been a child given that he was strong enough to carry all the wood for the sacrifice up the hill. He also could have easily resisted his father Abraham, who was incredibly old by then, considering Isaac was born at an age most men and women didn’t have children, they laughed. Isaac was a strong, healthy young man with much of his life yet to come; yet he willingly carried the wood and he willingly allowed himself to be tied down by his father.

And, if you know the context of the surrounding Pagan cultures, it would have been very clear that Isaac would have figured out what was going on. While the Lord detests any type of human sacrifice, the demons, the false gods, who warped the cultures around Abraham all wanted child sacrifice for good crops, future fertility, victory in war. Isaac knew, and yet he followed his father’s will.

The story ends when God provides a ram for the sacrifice; a model type of Christ in that it was a substitution, just like Christ is our substitute. But Isaac certainly passed a test of obedience; obedience even to death.

Now keeping this in mind, we look at John 19, and Jesus cross.

So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. 

Like with Abraham, it was God’s will that his only son should carry the wood as he approached his sacrifice. Isaiah 53:10, says,

53:10 But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering,

It’s hard to imagine that it pleased the Father to send His Son to Calvary’s cross, but that is exactly what we read in Isaiah. The Father was pleased, and the Son was pleased, for by the cross the Son purchased something greater than the price of the cross.

In John 18:11 Jesus called His impending crucifixion, “the cup which the Father has given Me.” Now, just as in Isaac’s case, Jesus could have resisted. He had His own will, just has we have our own will.

He could have declined to come in the first place, and He could have refused to take the cross. We see that reflected in His arrest in the garden. When a multitude with swords and clubs and torches came to arrest Him, they announced that they were looking for Jesus of Nazareth.

When He said, “I AM,” they ALL fell back to the ground. It wasn’t in surprise that they fell. They expected to find Him there.

It was the power of the Holy Spirit. The powers of darkness were ALLOWED to work, in order to fulfill the Father’s purpose.  But they weren’t going to work with any dignity. They weren’t allowed the illusion that they were in control.

So He carried the wood.  He took up his Cross.

With these examples in mind, what does it mean for us to deny ourselves and to daily take up our cross? Isaac believed his purpose was to obey God and honor his father, just as his father honored and obeyed God. Throughout Jesus earthly ministry we see Him saying things like:

My will is to do the will of Him who sent Me 

The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give His life a ransom for many

Jesus, who above anyone had the right to rule and to walk unscathed through this world, and to have His own way, intentionally yielded Himself daily, taking his cross and constantly following the Father’s will.

Now common sense tells us that Jesus did not intend for us to literally go and be crucified on a cross. The key word here, is ‘daily.’ If we took this over-literally, we could only do it once. So, what does the cross represent?

What does taking up our cross mean to us?

First it means where we are going the wrong way, we need to repent and turn around completely from walking in sin and seeking self-gratification and self-fulfillment.

Paul said that he died daily to sin, making daily a conscious effort to consider himself as having been crucified with Christ, and therefore dead to sin’s call on his life, and so doing, he daily walked in the power of a heavenly life with the risen Christ.

It also means carrying the wood our Father gives us. When Jesus tells us to pick up our cross and follow Him, implied in that command is the good news that what he has given you to carry, with his help, we are able to carry.

Isaac carried the wood up the mountain, and God made Isaac became a great nation. He received the promise. Through His obedience, Christ has been highly exalted, and sits at the Father’s right hand. And in both cases, FATHER AND SON WALKED ON TOGETHER. Don’t be afraid to carry the cross. God walks with you. And in exchange for your life, He will give you His Life.

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