The Cross is a Heavy Burden to Bear

Today I got a VERY SMALL taste of what Jesus went through. I carried a cross.

I have been helping a friend build a float for the Beaverton parade. One of the components of the float is a cross to symbolize Jesus. The sponsoring church had two large crosses stored on an adjoining property that I could use. I had to deliver a cross to my work site to be sure it would fit in the wood structure.

I have lifted crosses many times before. My beloved Ethnos Church had a very cool Stations of the Cross event for a number of years, and the last two years I was heavily involved in the event. Even on Sunday services we would often decorate with large props like crosses, and I was part of the service set up team. Needless to say I carried some crosses!

Ethnos Church Stations of the Cross - Jesus Bears the Cross
Here is the page out of the booklet I designed for Ethnos Church Stations of the Cross. I couldn’t find a good photo of the station itself.

Among the fourteen Stations of the Cross is one where you can lift a full size cross to get a sense of its weight. The point is to feel the weight of what Jesus Christ did to pay the price for our sins. The event offers many other similar activities which are useful for stimulating introspective thought, thanks and worship.

Lifting one side of the cross for a brief moment at Stations of the Cross is very different than carrying one a few hundred yards down the street. We intentionally used one of the lighter crosses for the previously described station at Ethnos Church… just big enough to give a small sense of heaviness. The one I carried today was much bigger and heavier. Ugh!

Cross stored by shed
Here is the cross in its original storage place.

Today I had perhaps three choices when I saw this cross sitting by the shed:

  1. Call a friend and have them help me carry or truck the cross to my work site.
  2. Carry it but think nothing of it or imagine what others would think – a funny and bizarre sight to see someone carrying a cross down the street – and laugh at myself a bit.
  3. Take it as an opportunity to reflect and pray.

I chose #3. As I carried the 8 foot cross down the street (huffing and puffing, taking very frequent breaks, and it killed my shoulder!), I once again considered when Jesus carried the cross long ago. According to a quick search, He carried it a distance under a mile – let’s say a half mile. This after being beaten nearly to death, with deep and gory lacerations all over his body and severe blood loss. He lacked proper sustenance. People screamed at him and mocked him. The mental and spiritual anguish must have been great! The rugged beam that Jesus carried most likely weighed over a hundred pounds. I don’t think my cross was that heavy, though wimpy me imagined it was! I had to stop a bunch of times and change positions a lot.

Taking a break while carrying cross down the street
I took many breaks while carrying the cross down the street.

After getting the cross to my work area, I was pretty tired. After the delivery I had to pick it up and lay it down a dozen times while fastening various supporting braces around it. Each time I lifted the cross it seemed to get heavier! I finally finished the supporting structure.

By the end of the evening, after six or seven hours of work, I hadn’t taken the cross down yet. Before leaving I thought it good to lower it to the ground to lessen the chance people might “mess with it” during the night. This meant lifting it out of a very snug slot perfectly gripping its sides all around with massive friction.

Lifting the heavy 8 foot cross out of that tightly wedged hole was literally one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. I was so physically drained after finally removing it that I immediately had to go to the ground. Fortunately my incomplete float structure made for a perfect “altar”. I placed a board under my knees, “Catholic style”, and literally laid face first upon the makeshift altar. My head was pounding with pulsing ache, and I was exhausted.

Cross wedged in parade float structure
Cross wedged tightly in parade float structure

This exercise, though not pleasant, was a very good time of reflection. I believe God carried me through it, and my back endured it all. This float building experience has been a very spiritual one from the start. Many analogies have come to mind. Here I am, building a boat in the heat of summer. At least two friends who helped provide tools and company commented something about Noah and the flood!

Can you imagine how insane Noah looked to his neighbors? In today’s society (maybe especially “weird” Portland), people often ignore weird stuff. No one stopped to look, smile or ask questions. I even carried the cross on the sidewalk closely past a lady and her dog. She didn’t even say anything or gesture my existence at all. The dog probably reacted more than her master! Not that I was looking for attention (not at all), but I find it funny how oblivious and distant people have become these days. Community and neighbors aren’t what they used to be! People are losing their social skills and getting all paranoid or too busy to interact with others. OK, let’s recover from this social commentary rabbit trail.

I’m very thankful that God became a man – Jesus – and took the punishment for my sin. The rightful punishment from God for even one small sin is DEATH. This is why all men die – we have inherited the nature of the first sinner, Adam. Otherwise we would all walk with God and live forever. I’m thankful that Jesus conquered death by coming back to life after His death. I’m thankful He returned to the Father and offers His Spirit to live in and guide us.

The deeds of God require a response. We must believe all His words, repent from our sins, and follow Him. It’s what we were ALL made for – by Him, for Him and through Him! Unfortunately very few people realize their purpose and even less choose it. I hope not to miss my purpose. I hope the LORD counts me among His family. I believe it is true because He said so. The rest of my life I will continually attempt to allow His fruit and His Spirit to be born and grown in me. And I wish the same for everyone, for so does my Master.

For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 2 Corinthians 1:5

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die — but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. Romans 5:6-11

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” Luke 9:23-26

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.” Matthew 10:34-40

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:12-13

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. eloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 1 John 3:1-6

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and I am willing to accept all the ridicule that comes along with saying I am His follower. Why should I be ashamed of the name of the Almighty Creator, the Highest King who has claimed me as His son? Good questions. Sometimes I don’t act as if those things are true. That is a shame. Change my heart, oh God.

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” John 1:43

4 thoughts on “The Cross is a Heavy Burden to Bear”

  1. Yep.

    ” … DENY himSELF and take up his cross DAILY and FOLLOW me (CHRIST).”

    … deny self daily and with cross follow Christ!

    Pretty much I fail every day! So glad His mercies are new EVERY MORNING!! Amazing grace!!!

  2. First of all, I don’t think you fail every day. I think you are pretty intentional about your walk, and there is fruit (evidence) in your life.

    It’s a touchy balance to understand, but I think we need to rest in grace but not grow weary in doing good. Basically, Jesus’ words should NOT discourage us, but excite us. It’s exciting to hear what He calls us to! If we are lazily sitting around and KNOW it, we need to do something about it. But His words are not meant to bear down heavily upon us. He says, “Take my yoke upon you. My burden is light.”

    He calls us to very difficult things, but if we feel extremely burdened by following Him, we probably are not as attached to Him and to His body (other believers) as we should be. Instead, we are probably following another lie – that we need to buck up and do it all by ourselves, show no weakness. Rubbish! If the body functions as designed, and we are in communities of true Christ followers, we can face things together, bearing each others’ burdens, rejoicing and crying together through blissful times and hardships alike.

    I don’t think we know much about true hardship in this country. I haven’t always taken my walk with Christ as seriously as I should. But what have I found? When I do, even when I do crazy things to follow Him… I feel more free, more happy and more alive – even if difficulties or opposition come!

    The burden for a Christian is more felt when he or she fails to live up to his or her true identity. It’s kind of like Superman complaining about wearing glasses and being cooped up in a cubicle typing news articles all day. He’d not be living up to his potential, even if he is the fastest typist in the world! He can do so much more! No one would stop him from fulfilling his destiny except his own negative, defeatist attitude. And in fact, the fictitious world he lives in “cries out” for him to be the hero he was meant to be.

    We too have been given a very exciting and wonderful purpose as the followers of Almighty God. We often settle for FAR less, patterning ourselves after this world. THAT is burdensome! And we are not the only ones who lose if we give in to the numbing pressures of this world. The world needs us! We are to continue the work of Jesus Christ and to do even greater things than He did… because we are many, diverse, and spread across everywhere! So let us be like-minded in this and not forget what we were called to.

  3. And to “use my own words against me”… I probably should have called a friend to help me carry the cross (#1 in my list of options above). That would have been a proper illustration of the Body of Christ working together as it should be. “Bear each others’ burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” However, this time I decided it was a good opportunity for reflection. Was it the “right” thing to do? I don’t know! I don’t think it was a big deal really. Just the thought of the moment. It did bear fruit in me, so it wasn’t seemingly entirely bad or prideful as far as I can tell. This whole building experience has been a profitable exercise for me.

    Of course I would like to employ others to help and also grow… but it’s hard to do. Not to bash the church, because I love her… but she is REALLY BAD at teaching us to share burdens and be leaders. Our examples of leaders (in most western churches) are what I would call “super pastors”. Instead of training and discipling others in the body to do the work collectively, they take on everything themselves. The ones who get paid to be Christians are essentially the only ones who do it. This is a HORRIFIC shame! We need to HELP our pastors and encourage them to train us. They might not force it upon us because they are gentle shepherds who love us… but Christ requires this of us, and our pastors will be greatly encouraged and better freed to fulfill their purpose. Their purpose is not to do everything, but only a small part. We must do our part too!

    I am slowly learning how to engage and inspire others… but it doesn’t come naturally. I’m very shy and not a good leader. Luckily I’m just doing one part of the float, and other portions are completely out of my hands. So in that, we are working together. I also technically have a “team” at my disposal, but the first designated night for that is Thursday. I knew I needed to get a huge head start, so have been working all this time.

    I have had considerable help from at least 2 people. Gary and Bill, whether they admit it or not, have been very helpful to me in this process. Bill assisted me when I was cutting glass, and his company was a lot of fun and encouraging. He’s a great guy. We served our overnight shifts together at the warming shelter. Gary works at the church for the property team. He was very bright and cheery as always, also kept me company, lent me a bunch of tools, drove me to get some wood, picked up another load with Kelly, and a bunch of other stuff. So even in my semi-isolation, the Body has been at work, helping me.

    Thursday I have an engagement and will probably leave instructions for my team to help in my absence. Friday I’ll hopefully get to work with some of them directly. That’ll be the best part!

  4. Thank you for the “vote of confidence”.

    What I believe I lack most of the time is the ability to completely deny self. I have been pretty fortunate for some years now to have flexibility in my schedule most of the time. For that I am grateful, but it does take more discipline, as one self-employed would understand. Staying on task with the “crosswalk” and “following” are challenging when there are so many necessary daily and weekly routine chores.

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