I read about an artist in 1998 who had gained some renown for her artistic depictions of biblical people during the time of Christ and of His disciples. What attracted my attention though was one of Christ on the cross called, “This I Do For You.” The artist’s name was Helen Terry. She came to my house and showed me pictures of many of her paintings and brought a large signed and numbered print of “This I Do For You” and gave it to me. What I found out upon her entering my home was she was on crutches. The metal kind that wrap around the forearm for extra stability. She had polio as a child. She entered my home looking as if she was laboring. My 90 lb. Doberman carefully walked by her side to give support to her and then sat beside her for the next couple of hours. He made sure her hand was on his head all the time she sat there, as if to say, “If you just keep petting me, you’ll feel better.” They made an immediate bond. She was also badly hurt in the only F3 tornado to hit Ft. Pierce, Fl. In all this, she did not complain. Looking at the print of her painting, it was easy to see she had been given a special insight by Him, which she then drew. Billy Graham has a print of her drawing, as does the Vatican. She died in 2013. Her print of “This I Do For You” is the first thing you see when you enter my home. It’s overpowering. The eyes of Jesus in this print convey the message, “You pick up your cross and follow Me.”
The cross Jesus was crucified on was rough, heavy, and filled with splinters. Imagine your body rubbing against it and then having its weight push down on your back and shoulders. Then try to imagine the same thing happening after you have been scourged, so that muscle and tissue are ripped and shredded and visible through flayed flesh along with sinew and bone. Jesus was weakened. Most would have died from the beatings He received and now this heavy instrument of death was placed on Him. So, the soldiers compelled a certain man, Simon of Cyrene, to carry Jesus’ cross the rest of the way. Simon was a visitor from what is now Libya. It was not believed he was a follower of Christ at that time. But He became one after this experience. What went through Simon’s mind as his eyes locked with Jesus? Did he even try to reconcile why this man was so severely beaten so near to the point of death, yet death still awaited Him? He heard Jesus’ groaning and Simon himself groaned at the weight of the cross. Its rough wood scraped against him and large splinters entered his skin. Did Simon later realize that the blood of Christ on those splinters now intermingled with his own blood? Simon would become a follower as would his son, Rufus. I wonder what Simon’s thoughts were when he took communion? How did the words of Christ resonate that said, “Take. Drink. This is my blood shed for you.” I imagine Simon never forgot that. I’m sure he had a special insight. Did he feel like the apostle Paul who said in in Philippians 3:10, “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” I feel Simon of Cyrene knew better than most. That image and experience was etched indelibly in his mind. Simon would become a missionary to France and it was said he was a bishop in Avignon. He was martyred in 100 A.D. Crucified.
It is imperative that we do our best to come before Him and ask for special understanding and insight in how to take up our cross. I’ll go into this further at another time but in the meantime, I would recommend looking into teachings on this by Jonathan Boegl. Google him. Know that He has a plan for each of us. It’s in our everyday walk. We take up our cross in our job, our church, our very existence. We make it a conscious act of our will to surrender the right to ourselves to Him. In all we do. Wherever we are. Every day. Every thought. Paul said in Philippians 3:8, “I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him.” Sometimes the closest I get to that is just trying to fathom what Paul actually felt. For now, maybe we can embrace what Jesus did for us and delve into the depths of His love. Maybe we can realize that if we take up our cross, certain things might fall away such as anger, pride, unforgiveness, bitterness, inability to share and give, hard heartedness, slander, wicked thoughts, racist thoughts, back biting and inability to show His love to others. Nail all of these terrible things to the cross. Remember that love covers a multitude of sins.
Take up your cross in standing up for others. Do so in love. Pursue peace with all men, but do not give way to evil. Hunger and thirst after righteousness, but remember do not be one who will hear the words, “I was thirsty and you gave me no drink.” Turmoil and thoughts contrary to Christ are so prevalent. Let His word abide in you. Then the love of God will be perfected in you. Do not let the pervasive darkness blind your eyes and cloud your thought. As John said in 1 John 2:28, “Abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.” He died that we would have life and the forgiveness of sins. “This I do for you.” Take up your cross. I pray the love of God guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Blessings.