Day 24 :: The Path to the Cross
A large crowd of people followed him, including women who were mourning and lamenting him. But turning to them, Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and your children.”
I love walking. I love being up in the hills, just me, the dog, and beautiful sceneries. But walking is the last thing I feel like when I’m exhausted. For some of us, walking is a nightmare, and could cause us dreadful pain.
Jesus had travelled by foot around countless places ministering to crowds and calling disciples. But this last journey was the hardest one.
Jesus’ fate had been decided. He had endured sham trials. He was to be crucified. He’d been mocked, spat on, battered. He was flogged with whips that had bones and metal sticking out of them until his back was ripped open. Then he was led away towards the cross.
His path was a narrow one. He was bloodied and beaten. All he could do was put one step in front of the other as he was taken to his shameful death. His once strong carpenter’s frame that would be used to heavy lifting, was now suffering from serious blood and tissue loss. He was more exhausted than he had ever been.
He was so weary that the soldiers grabbed a lad called Simon from Cyrene, a city in Libya, and gave him the beam of the cross to carry. It’s likely that Simon was in town for the Passover festival, and all of a sudden, he’s got this huge beam of wood on his back. Not only that, but he has to carry it in front of possibly thousands of people watching.
Crowds were following, just as they had for Jesus’ whole ministry. But the atmosphere was different now. A group of women were ‘mourning and lamenting.’ (v27) No wonder. This man who they had possibly seen performing miracles, healing severely disabled people, and casting out demons and teaching with real authority was now a shell of himself.
But Jesus wasn’t looking for pity.
“Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and your children.” (v28)
He knew why he was in this state. He knew why he was in such pain. He had put himself in that position.
Instead of feeling sorry for him though, they were to mourn for themselves. Terrifying pain was to come, and it would be so horrible that those who face it would rather die in such a violent earthquake that mountains and hills would squash them. (v30) He told them that days were coming when it would be considered better to be barren, childless, rather than to have given birth to others that would have to face this torment. (v29)
He ends his message with a picture of wood. Green wood, full of life, doesn’t burn well, but dead, dry, lifeless wood burns a treat. Jesus, the green wood, full of life and truth, was metaphorically being burnt alive. How much more would dead, sinful, lifeless people suffer?
There’s a bit of debate about what events Jesus is referring to here. It’s quite possible that he has in mind the destruction of Jerusalem, which took place in AD70, which was horrifying.
It should also leave us thinking of the last days. Judgement is still to come. God’s wrath will one day, rightly, be poured out as a punishment on sin. All evil will be punished with an eternity of suffering. All people will be found guilty. All deserve punishment. All should weep and mourn for their grief to come.
Yes, Jesus was suffering, but he suffered so that many might be saved eternally. He would overcome his suffering; he would rise again and live eternally, and he calls many to pick up their cross and follow him, as Simon did.
Each of us are guilty and deserving of eternal pain, but if we’ve put our trust in Jesus, we have nothing to be afraid of as we head for eternal joy.
The Christian walk is a painful one as we deny ourselves, pick up our crosses and follow Jesus. It may even feel like a painful nightmare at times, as we battle our own sin and the world around us. But if our hope is in Jesus, the pain will one day be over.
Jesus took the most painful path of suffering so that our path of suffering might be short. Take courage and keep going!
Passages to read: Luke 23:26-31, Matthew 27:32-34, Mark 15:21-23
A thought to remember: Jesus path of suffering leads to our path of joy.
A question to ask: How is living for Jesus causing you difficulty or pain? How does knowing Jesus encourage you to keep going?
A song to sing: O Weary Soul Keep On