The Burden of this Cross

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Then Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.   Matthew 16:24

ἀπαρνέομαι

aparneomai

to forget one’s self

lose sight of one’s self and one’s own interests

disown, abstain

Jesus’ words strike a hard cord in me.  I am called to follow Jesus because I have chosen His way over mine, yet I still want to do things my way, guide the direction of my own life, take my own chances.  Then I hit a wall and it hurts.  I run on empty, unable to go anywhere in life except down by the pull of gravity.  In order to follow the Lord, I am to deny myself, releasing my desires and hopes for His, His alone.  When I am in step with Jesus, all that He desires for me are those things I need.  An interesting piece of God’s puzzle for my life is His desires for me are often just what I desire for myself.  I’m not losing after all.  The relationship with Christ is far more important so that I walk rightly with the Lord.

αἴρω

airō

  bear (up)

place on oneself

to carry

My burdens can be worries, anxieties, physical pain, other people’s lives and their concerns, hurting people of this world, and so much more.  All can weigh heavily upon my heart.  The Word tells me not to be anxious, not to worry.  He is faithful and is with me.  He feeds and clothes the birds; He will do the same for His children.  So I lift those weights and take them to Jesus.

σταυρός

stauros

a stake or post (as set upright), i.e. (specially), a pole or cross (as an instrument of capital punishment)

figuratively, exposure to death, i.e. self-denial

by implication, the atonement of Christ:—cross.

The cross is what Jesus was placed upon for His crucifixion.  It is a horribly cruel punishment and eventual death.  Scourging comes first.  The one being crucified must carry his own cross.  Jesus did this part of the way until Simon was compelled to carry it the remainder of the way.  Jesus would hang upon the Cross until death.

And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus.  Luke 23:26

The cross is that which will kill this earthly life.

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I carry a cross, laden with burdens.  I place it there at the feet of Jesus.  He died for my sins.  Why do I continue weighing myself down?  Jesus has taken it all to the Cross.  Part of the definition of cross, in Greek, is self -denial.  I deny myself, being exposed to death, reproach, suffering, trials, punishment.  I am no longer mine, but His.

I am learning as I do that which Jesus asks of me: denying things of the self, lifting up that which weighs me down, carrying the cross to Jesus Who has already taken my burdens upon Himself.  It is in the doing, the actions of denying, lifting, and carrying to Jesus that I begin to find a clearer, deeper meaning to all that He is asking of me.

ἀκολουθέω

akoloutheō

to be or become the disciple of another as to faith and practice

to follow his teaching

Following Jesus is key to my walk in this Christian life.  When I am His, I desire to be near and to know the path upon which He leads me.  I release all burdens, knowing that He is caring for me.

“Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)

As Your child, LORD, I depend upon You.  When I feel alone, or struggling with concerns, You are right here.  You are yoked with me.  You know my physical pain, the concerns that touch my heart regarding others, my anxiousness over provision for this earthly life.  Your grace is truly sufficient, Sweet Jesus.  Sometimes I feel wrung out and worn out.  The Word says in Matthew 27, verse 39-40: And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, ‘You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself!  If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.’  But You hung on that Cross, LORD, and paid the ultimate price for me, releasing me to walk with You always. You have given me eternal life.  How much more could I ask?  What else is there to ask?  Forgive me when I am selfish.  Often, when I deny myself, I must turn around and deny myself again, LORD, because I am selfish.  I just am, but am also very sorry.  I carry my cross to You so that I may follow You.  “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”  (Matthew 10:38 ESV)  I do not want to be called “unworthy,” LORD.  Thank You for walking with me on this journey even when I fail You.  Your forgiveness, Your love, Your gentle nature give me the hope in this life that my physical eyes cannot see, yet the eyes of my heart know hope for You are the Hope.  I love You, Jesus.  I pray gently in Your Name.  Amen. 

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Graphic:  by American/Dutch web designer Catherine Reijans, founder of KATINK web design; https://thinkingmuseum.com/2013/10/30/thinking-museum-on-think-katink/  (but the actual think-Katink web design site is no longer connected, but I want to give her credit where it is due)

Cross:  http://www.themescompany.com/2012/04/17/cross/

Sheep and Shepherds

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.  Psalm 23:1

רָעָה

ra`ah

shepherd

to tend a flock; i.e. pasture it; intransitively, to graze (literally or figuratively); generally to rule; by extension, to associate with (as a friend):—× break, companion, keep company with, devour, eat up, evil entreat, feed, use as a friend, make friendship with, herdman, keep (sheep) (-er), pastor, shearing house, shepherd, wander, waste.

occurs 173 times in 144 verses in the Hebrew concordance of the KJV

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I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  John 10:11

ποιμήν

poimēn

a shepherd (literally or figuratively):—shepherd, pastor

occurs 18 times in 17 verses in the Greek concordance of the KJV

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Sheep do not have the ability to survive on their own.  They:

  • graze the same area until the pasture is destroyed.
  • pollute the same ground until it breeds dangerous parasites.
  • drink whatever water is available, clear or contaminated.
  • are fearful and become aggravated which can lead to improperly digesting foods.
  • are timid.
  • and can be stubborn.

They need a shepherd.

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Christians are compared to sheep quite frequently in God’s Word.

We wander down paths of our own devising rather than follow God’s way for our lives.  We delve into false beliefs.  We drink from unhealthy waters, figuratively.  We can be stubborn and fight against God’s best.

Looking at the natural habits of sheep when left on their own can be a reflection of ourselves.

Jesus is our Shepherd.  He is the Christ, the Son of God.  He created me and you.  Who better to care for me, for us?  He cared more than anything for the likes of me when He went to Calvary.

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on Him
the iniquity of us all.  Isaiah 53:6

We are capable of doing right, yet often fail in our attempts using our own strength.  We drink waters of the world rather than the Living Water.  We live in fear rather than trusting in Him Who is trustworthy.  We wander away from our Maker and do not listen for His still, small voice directing us in the way in which we should go.

When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Matthew 9:36

Jesus is our faithful Shepherd, gentle, caring, and, yet, stern.

A shepherd owns his sheep and marks them with his special mark to determine ownership.  He will cut a notch, a distinctive mark, into his sheep’s ear while placing one ear on a wooden block.

In the Old Testament, Exodus 21, this was also done to a slave in a Hebrew household who chose, of his own free will, to become a lifetime member of that home.  His master/owner would take him to the door, put his ear lobe against the door post and, with an awl, puncture a hole through the ear.  He was marked.

1 “Now these are the rules that you shall set before them. When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing. If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out alone. But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever.  Exodus 21:1-6

We, as Christ’s, bear the mark of the Cross.  Jesus has authority over me.

Then Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.  Matthew 16:24

We need the Good Shepherd, the One Who truly is our Shepherd.

7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.  I am the door.  If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.  10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.  11 I am the good Shepherd.  The good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.  12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.  13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.  14 I am the good Shepherd.  I know My own and My own know Me, 15 just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold.  I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice.  So there will be one flock, one Shepherd.  John 10:7-16

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Father God, You gave Your One and Only Son to pay the price for my iniquities.  Thank You so very much.  

As one of Your children, I so want to please You.  Carrying my cross daily and following Jesus is my call.  And I want that to always be my call.  I am grateful for being willing and able, for the sake of the Gospel.  I follow.  It is a privilege, LORD.  A privilege.  

As a sheep, I would wish that I were not so vulnerable, but I am.  It is by staying in Your Word, by listening to and for You, by praying, that I can remain in Your fold.  I know that the good Shepherd guards the gateway so that I remain safe.  He watches for the wolves, protecting me.  I am dependent upon Jesus and look to Him.  I am sorry for my past periods of straying away.  I am here now.  I must stay close for His protection is vital to my life.  Thank You, Father.  I lift up in prayer those who stray or are lost or have not yet found the Shepherd.  May they hear Your Voice and come to You before it is too late.  I have family and friends in those places and I so want them with us in Heaven.  In the Name of Jesus, I pray.  Amen.  

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Photo of shepherd and sheep

Photo of John 10