Jesus says, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’ Mark 8:34
|St Ives Walk of Witness 2015 - Photograph Christa Sirl|
Brothers and sisters, I would like to thank you for inviting me to preach for our annual walk of witness. It is a great privilege for any preacher on this occasion to stand on this spot, on top of the Island, and to speak the word of Christ, as the legends of our town tells us that Ia proclaimed the gospel from this place – this foreigner who came from across the sea and begun to preach about Christ to the locals… I’m sure nothing like that would happen today...
Yet, you see, our town has evolved in fifteen hundred years, but as Christians we are still here; the message of the Cross has not changed in two thousand years; the Christ that we preach is still ‘Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to unbelievers’ (1Cor1:23). Centuries have passed, but we still proclaim him – the one was rejected, the one who died, the one who alone can save through his precious blood.
As we listen to the story of how Jesus climbed the hill to Calvary, we encounter one man who is forced to follow after Jesus carrying the Cross; Simon of Cyrene. Mark’s gospel tells us that he was ordered, that he was compelled to carry the Cross (Cf. 15:21). He did not wish to do it; the soldiers made him do it. What about us?
Jesus says ‘If any want to become my followers, let them … take up their cross and follow me.’
We have come up to this place, we have endured some laughter from the crowd, we have made our act of witness, and we have kept company to the Lord Jesus as he walked up to Calvary. But this is Good Friday, and we have strength in our number. What about walking up to Calvary in our daily lives, when we are alone and outnumbered? Would we still walk on then? Would we still bear witness to the Cross of Christ then?
In those moments, we must not be like Simon, we have to carry the Cross in everything we do – the mark of foolishness to unbelievers. Our Lord does not force us to do it as the soldiers did with Simon. We have to carry the Cross in the world out of love for him who died for us.
Yet, we so often recoil from doing that. We shy away. When the Cross means standing up for Jesus we refuse to do it because the personal cost might be too great; when the Cross means forgiving those who have done us wrong, we recoil because of our pride; when the Cross means to stop gossiping and slandering others, we shy away because of our self-righteousness. Isn’t it so?
Then look at the Cross. Look at it. Did our Saviour refuse it? Did he recoil from it? Did he shy away? He alone is the one who had anything valuable to lose, yet he emptied himself to become a servant; he alone is the one who could have been excused for being proud, yet he humbled himself; he alone is righteous, yet he took our sins on his shoulders.
Let us look at the Cross of Jesus and lament – because it was our pride, our self-righteousness that caused his suffering.
Let us look at the Cross, and next time we hear Jesus saying, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me’ we will remember that Our Crucified Lord did not just die to save us, but that on this Cross he also set a pattern of behaviour for his followers.
Let us pray,
Almighty God,whose most dear Son went not up to joybut first he suffered pain,and entered not into glorybefore he was crucified:mercifully grant that we,walking in the way of the cross,may find it none otherthan the way of life and peace;through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,who is alive and reigns with you,in the unity of the Holy Spirit,one God, now and for ever. Amen.