God in Weakness: A Thought on Jn 19.16-17 & Lk 23.26Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Christian hope, Grace, Jesus, Suffering
Have you ever wondered to yourself if Jesus knew what it was like to hurt so bad he wanted to quit? Have you ever wondered to yourself, perhaps after that secret fall, if Jesus knew what it was like to fall? Have you ever wondered if Jesus became weary, exhausted or just plain tired? I have! I have wondered to myself often if Jesus knew what it was like to really fall flat on his face. Could Jesus understand when my body not only wanted to give out — but did give out? I have wondered, have you? In fact one of my favorite poems is by Donna Swanson called “Did You Ever Cry, Jesus?”
Did you ever cry, Jesus?
did the world ever pile up on you ’til you wanted to
Did you ever cry, Jesus?
Did you ever get so tired of humanity you wished
you’d never come?
Did life ever throw you too much hate?
Were there more lies and apathy than could be born
Did you ever ache, Jesus?
Did you sometimes fret at family obligations
and long to be about your Father’s business?
Did the blind eyes, the twisted bodies,
The warped minds and maimed souls get to you? Were
you ever just plain mad?
Were you ever lonely, Jesus?
When your friends misunderstood and walked out on
you, did you ever cry, Jesus?
I think you must have, for you know me so well. So
I think you must have cried a little.
(in Calvin Miller, The Book of Jesus, p. 242-243).
He Identifies With Us!
The Gospel texts for ruminating reads …
“So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the skull . . . Here they crucified him . . . (Jn. 19:16b-17).”
“As they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene . . . and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus (Luke 23: 26).”
According to our text in John JESUS was forced to carry his cross. But according to Luke (and Mt & Mk) Simon was forced to carry the cross. How are we to understand this? There is no reason to assume a contradiction between the two. The explanation is much simpler than that — it is hinted at in the NT and explicitly declared in early church tradition. Jesus of Nazareth fell beneath the load of the Roman cross and Simon was forced to carry it the rest of the way to Golgotha!
It makes perfect sense actually. Think about what he has been through. He hasn’t slept in over 48 hours. Think of Gethsemane? Did he have visions of the countless sins pressing down on him — tortures, murders, rapes, slander, lies? Did he visualize shattered families, molested children, millions of murdered babies? Did he see my disobedience. Did he see the warfare his brothers and sisters would eventually make upon one another!? What unspeakable emotional agony the Messiah went through in Gethsemane! Emotionally he was spent!
His body has been tortured, battered and abused. Now it is failing him. Just as yours and mine fail us at times. For Jesus isn’t God dressed up as a man. He is a REAL MAN! He bleeds real blood. He shares the weaknesses and limitations of the flesh with you and me. The reason the African, Simon of Cyrene, has to carry the cross is because Jesus falls … He falls to the ground … Do you see what the Cross teaches us here? Jesus is one of US! He was a Man!
He understands when our bodies are subject to fatigue as well as pain. He knew his own body would fail even as the disciples did in the Garden of Sorrows.
We rush past the cross sometimes. We must see how the Cross teaches one of the hardest of all lessons to learn– Jesus is one of us! The Cross teaches the humanity of Jesus. What do you see when you see the Lord of the Universe fall to the ground under the burden of the cross, under the burden of our sin? Do you see raw and bloody knees as the hit the stone pavement? – I see his weakness, I see his humanity. I see just how far the love of God really goes. I see how completely the Son of God identified with human beings calling himself the `Son of Man.’ I see a man who knows what it is like to fall. His is not due to personal sin but because his human body is just like mine. We get bruised just as he was bruised. We are spent emotionally just as he was spent emotionally. To fall is a very visible sign of our vulnerability. It is even embarrassing at times. But we fall because we are human.
Listen to it. The One who falls under the horrible burden of sin does not look away as we fall under the burden of life or sin. When we are down he is there at our side. He understands, he has been there. He is one of us! That is comforting to know. In fact there are days that that is the ONLY thing that gets me through! There are times I want to quit. There are times I fail terribly as a husband, as a father, as a minister, and as a Christian — praise be to God Jesus knows what I am going through! Each step I take he is by my side, he has never deserted me, and he leads me closer home. In fact, Jesus who fell under the cross said,
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light . . . (Mt. 11.28ff)
How can his yoke be easy and his burden light? The picture we have of him is some falling to the dirt under a burden. The answer is the yoke and the burden he’s carrying to the cross is not his own. They’re ours. He’s carrying our burdens, our sins; he falls under our yoke of condemnation — Not his! But he offers us an easy yoke and light burden. Jesus understands. Now isn’t that Good News! You have to come to the cross for this Good News from the Lord. Maybe Hebrews will mean more to us when we understand this message. Listen:
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too SHARED IN THEIR HUMANITY so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death . . . FOR THIS REASON lie had to be made like his BROTHERS in EVERY WAY . . . Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted (2: 14-18).
God In Weakness
The lessons of the cross are never discovered by those in a hurry. They are never discovered by those who spend little time watching the One carrying the cross. Yet it is at the heart of the Gospel. The Epistle to the Hebrews is built upon it. The amazing message proclaimed by the Cross is that the omnipotent Creator of the universe is at this moment in his life on earth to weak to carry a wooden cross! Yes, to weak to even stand. Perhaps we can just begin to grasp the distance our great God would go to save you and me.
Because Jesus bore the cross, because he fell beneath the load he says to you and me, “I understand your weakness. There was a time when I couldn’t even stand upright like a man.” Our Savior descended from the realm of perfection to imperfection. From the strength of heaven to the weakness of earth. That is a long, long journey to make. Christians fall! And Jesus falls do to weakness as well.
Radical? Indeed! True? Absolutely! Comforting? It gives us strength because he is there with us.
Max Lucado in his classic, God Came Near, tried to communicate this truth of the gospel (that Jesus is one of us) in these memorable words:
He was touchable, approachable, reachable. And, what’s more, he was ordinary. If he were here today you probably wouldn’t notice him as he walked through a shopping mall… (p. 54).
Don’t rush past the cross, We in the church do that to often. The cross is telling us the wonderful news of grace — Jesus understands when we fall. He is one of us. He didn’t come to condemn us but to save us by being condemned on the Cross for us. Did Jesus cry? You bet he did! He still cries for us … and with us!
May these thoughts bless you …