Matt 27:32                             Simon of Cyrene                            12/21/2008    ßà   

 

 

 

 

#1.       A Crown of Thorns (Matt 27:29, Rom 2:28-29, Psalm 69:19-20, Isa 49:7, 53:3)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#2.       A Man of Cyrene (Matt 27:32, 16:24, John 19:14,17, Mark 15:25,33-37,21, Luke 23:26)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#3.       Bear Our Cross After Jesus (Matt 10:38, 11:30, 16:24-26, Luke 9:23, 2Tim 3:12)

 

 

 

Please open your Bibles to the Gospel According to Matthew, Matt 27:27 (2X). We are slowly going through Matthew 27, for we need to have a good understanding of the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. God says in 1Cor 2:2, “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” And thus it is of extreme importance that we understand “Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” We have come to that section in Matt 27 where the Lord Jesus is being prepared to go to the cross. But first He has to endure the mocking of the Roman soldiers. They were mocking the King of the Jews. But in this we can also see the hand of God, for in these words many Scriptures were fulfilled. We need to remind ourselves constantly that all this was orchestrated by God. We read in Matt 27:27-34,

Mt 27:27-34  Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers. And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe. And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head. And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him. And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross. And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull, They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink.

We read in verse 32 about a man named Simon of Cyrene. Therefore the title of this sermon is Simon of Cyrene (2X). We read in verse 27 that they “gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers.” “The whole band” meant that all the soldiers of the garrison stationed in Jerusalem were gathered here. That could be as many as 500 soldiers. They were gathered into the common hall, which is called the “Praetorium,” which was a large room in the governor’s palace. There they mocked Him, for they had heard that He was the King of the Jews. Then they put a scarlet robe on Him. In the Gospel of Mark it is called a purple robe. If we want to be precise, the scarlet color was obtained from a certain species of fruit, but purple was obtained from a shell-fish. For example, in Acts 16 Lydia, who was from Thyatira, was a seller of purple, for purple cloth was a product of Thyatira. However, the common people gave the name purple to any color that had a mixture of red in it, and consequently these different colors might be called by the same name. The scarlet robe signified royalty. This could be the same gorgeous robe that Herod put on Him in Luke 23:11 before He sent Jesus back to Pilate. We read in Luke 23:11, “And Herod with his men of war set him at nought, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate.” This was a robe worn by Herod, or by Roman generals and governors. But we cannot imagine that Herod would array Jesus in a new and splendid robe. This robe was probably worn out and cast off as useless, for it was Herod’s intent to mock Jesus with this robe. This robe was now used to array the Son of God as an object of ridicule and scorn. But this was not the last time that the Lord Jesus was the object of ridicule and scorn. To many people around the world, as well as in our own country, the Lord Jesus is an object of ridicule and scorn. In their eyes we are held as religious fanatics, or as poor deceived souls who need a religious crutch to help us go through this life. However, we are not deceived, but those who reject the Bible, the Word of God, are deceived by the master deceiver, the devil. And their great sin shall be exposed when the Lord Jesus comes again on the clouds of glory to take vengeance on all them that know not God. But let us return to the atonement of the Lord Jesus.

#1.       A Crown of Thorns (Matt 27:29, Rom 2:28-29, Psalm 69:19-20, Isa 49:7, 53:3)

The Roman soldiers were hardened criminals, who enjoyed afflicting pain. We read in Matt 27:29,

Mt 27:29  And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!

They platted a crown of thorns and put it upon His head, with the intent to mock Him and increase His suffering. The word “platted” really means “woven together.” Palestine abounds with thorny shrubs and plants. There are 22 words in the Hebrew OT that refer to thorny and prickly plants. But since this crown of thorns was intended to increase the sufferings of the Lord Jesus, we can be assured that this crown of thorns was from a species that has sharp points of very hard wood. They therefore could be easily pressed into His skin and cause excruciating pain. We should remember that this torture was applied after the Lord Jesus also endured the scourging with Roman whips on His back in verse 26.

And they put a reed in His right hand. Reeds grow in marshy places on the banks of the Jordan River. Not everyone knows what a reed is, but we can say it is probably equivalent to a bamboo stick, and everyone knows what a bamboo stick is. And they put it in His right hand to symbolize a royal sceptre. What is a sceptre? Properly it is a staff or a rod. You might have seen it in some pictures of kings in their royal splendor. As a symbol of authority, the use of the sceptre originated in the idea that the ruler was as a shepherd of his people, but there is no example on record of a sceptre having ever been actually handled by a Jewish king. And so, here the Lord Jesus Christ is mocked with a crown of thorns and with a reed in His right hand. The soldiers did not know that this was exactly what God intended for us to understand. The crown of thorns indicate that the Lord Jesus is king over all, even over the thorns and thistles of this world, and the reed in His right hand is pointing to His function as Shepherd over His flock, which are the sheep at His right hand, as we can read in Matt 25:33.

Then they mocked Him by bowing the knee before Him and saying, “Hail, King of the Jews.” And this also was orchestrated by God, for the Lord Jesus is indeed the King of the Jews, if we understand the proper meaning of “Jews” in the NT dispensation. You see, before the cross Jews were those who were descendants of Judah, which means ”Praise”, and after the Babylonian captivity this term was expanded to include all the descendants of Jacob. But after the cross, in God’s terminology, the honorable name Jew refers to those who are children of God through the cross of Jesus Christ. This is just one of the fundamental changes that have occurred at the time of the cross. God says in Rom 2:28-29,

Ro 2:28-29  For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

And so, the Lord Jesus is really King of the Jews, but these are the Jews in the NT sense of the word These are Jews that are a delight to the Lord, for He has caused them to be His special people by dying for them on the cross. Please turn in your Bibles to the Prophecy of the Psalms, Psalm 69:19 (2X). Psalm 69 is a Messianic Psalm, which means that it is a Psalm which the Lord Jesus prayed back to His heavenly Father. We can see that when we read verses 9 and 21 in this Psalm, for the words in these two verses are used in the NT as the words of Jesus. We read in Psalm 69:19-20,

Ps 69:19-20  Thou hast known my reproach, and my shame, and my dishonour: mine adversaries are all before thee. Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.

Clearly this Psalm teaches us that the Lord Jesus suffered in His humanity. It was His human side which atoned for our sins, for only a human being could pay for the sins of another human being. But His human side was so much strengthened by being united with God the Son that He was able to endure in His humanity the full payment for our sins, the equivalent of an eternity in Hell. And so, Christ suffered this full payment both in His body and in His human soul. Sometimes we get the mistaken impression that Christ suffered only in His body, for example when we read in the NT “Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree.” However, this was written to indicate that it was in His humanity that He atoned for our sins, not in His Divinity. When we take all the verses referring to Christ’s suffering, we can see that He suffered in His body as well as in His soul, and the sufferings in His soul were far greater than the sufferings in His body. Please turn in your Bibles to the Prophecy of Isaiah, Isa 49:7 (2X). We have here another example of mocking and despising of the Lord Jesus Christ. The passage of verses 1-10 in this chapter are the 8th Servant song in the prophecy of Isaiah, all referring to Christ and to the people who have been redeemed and are in Christ. God says in Isa 49:7 (2X),

Isa 49:7  Thus saith the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth, to a servant of rulers, Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the LORD that is faithful, and the Holy One of Israel, and he shall choose thee.

The Redeemer of Israel, the NT Israel of God, is the Lord Jesus Christ, and He is called LORD, which means Jehovah. The man Christ Jesus is identified as Jehovah, for only if He is God can He be our Redeemer. Only if He has the strength as God has will He be able to endure the penalty for our sins. “To him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth” indicates that He will be despised and abhorred by the nation that calls themselves Israel. He shall come as a servant of rulers. We are those rulers. We are those kings that shall see and arise and shall worship Him, because (and here the reason is given) He that is faithful is the Holy One of Israel, and He shall choose us. You see, we do not choose to be saved, but He shall choose us. But OT Israel does not like to include the Gentiles in God’s plan of salvation, and that is why in their envy they despised Him and they abhorred Him, to the extent that they wanted Him dead. Like God says in Isa 53:3, “He is despised and rejected of men.” Please turn the page to the next chapter in the prophecy of Isaiah, Isa 50:6 (2X).

They were not satisfied with mocking the Lord Jesus. Now they also make Him suffer. We read in M.

Mt 27:30  And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.

This too was prophesied of the sufferings of the Lord Jesus. We read in Isa 50:6,

Isa 50:6  I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.

Verses 2-9 of this chapter constitute the 9th Servant song in the Prophecy of Isaiah, all referring to the Lord Jesus Christ. Especially verse 6 describes some of the sufferings and insults that the Lord Jesus had to endure. He gave His back to the scourging by the Roman whips. The soldiers plucked off the hair from His beard. Then the soldiers spit in His face. What is so special about spitting in His face? In Deut 25:9 God declared that to spit in someone’s face means that this person is under the curse of God. The Lord Jesus had come under the curse of God from the evening before when He suffered and prayed fervently to His heavenly Father in the Garden of Gethsemane. Please turn again to the Gospel of Matthew, Matt 27:30 (2X). And now the soldiers not only spit in His face, but they also took the reed out of His hand and with it they hit Him on the head, right smack on the crown of thorns. The Lord Jesus predicted this treatment from these soldiers when He declared  much earlier to His disciples, in Luke 18:32, “For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on.” But the disciples understood none of these things. Actually, these soldiers were afflicting the Lord Jesus in the way that God has ordained that the Lord Jesus must suffer for our sins. All we can see were the outward signs of His sufferings, but inwardly He suffered a great deal more. And we may think that the soldiers were exceptionally brutal. But when we turn the page to Matt 26:67 (2X) we see a very similar behavior from the priests and the elders and the scribes and the Pharisees. We read in Matt 26:67, “Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands.” These were the holy men who called themselves the religious rulers of the Jews. These holy men, who had a seat in the Sanhedrin, the highest and holiest rulers of the Jews, were debasing themselves with spitting in the face of the Lord Jesus and by buffeting Him, which means they hit Him as hard as they could. And then they blindfolded Him and smote Him with the palms of their hands, and they asked Him who it was that hit Him. But throughout all these insults from the Sanhedrin and from the soldiers the Lord Jesus remained silent. He did not utter one cry of pain, for we read in Isa 53:7,

Isa 53:7, He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

#2.       A Man of Cyrene (Matt 27:32, 16:24, John 19:14,17, Mark 15:25,33-37,21, Luke 23:26)

Please turn again to the Gospel of Matthew, Matt 27:32 (2X) where we read about a man of Cyrene. Here is an important verse with great spiritual significance. God has officially declared, through Pilate’s sentence, that Jesus must suffer the full penalty for our sins. But there had to be a precise moment in time when Jesus was sentenced to death. This was at about 6:00 O-clock on Friday morning, according to John 19:14, for John uses Roman time, whereas the other three Gospel writers used Hebrew time. He was accursed of God and to be hanged on a tree. And it was at about 9:00 O-clock on Friday morning that Jesus was crucified and hanged on a tree, according to Mark 15:25. And it was at about 3:00 O-clock on Friday afternoon that Jesus died, according to Mark 15:33-37. And God arranged that Simon of Cyrene passed by precisely at the time when Jesus was led out of the palace. We read in Matt 27:32, “And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross.” Let us get a good grip on the historical details of this event by reading it in all four Gospels. We read in Mark 15:21, “And they compel one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross.” We read in Luke 23:26, “And as they led him away, they laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus.” We read in John 19:17, “And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha.”

Let us begin with asking: Who is this Simon of Cyrene? Simon came from Cyrene. Where is Cyrene? If you dig up an old map, you find that Cyrene was in North Africa, about 500 miles West of Egypt. It used to be a Greek colony, but now it was part of the Roman Empire, retaining its Greek culture. Simon had a Hebrew name. This confirmed the fact that there was a Jewish synagogue as far West as Cyrene. At this point in time Simon was residing in Judea. He was just passing by, coming from a field, minding his own business, when the Roman soldiers grabbed him and compelled him to carry the cross for Jesus. Most likely the Roman soldiers picked on Simon of Cyrene because of his darker skin color. Most likely Simon looked like a very strong man who could carry Jesus' cross. But he was not given any choice. Here was God's irresistible grace at work. He was compelled to carry the cross of Jesus, and carry it behind Jesus. This is how he came to meet Jesus. The Roman soldiers got hold of Simon to carry the cross of Jesus for two reasons. Pilate had written the superscription to be fastened above the head of Jesus. It read: "This is the King of the Jews". The soldiers mocked Him: O.K. if Jesus was a king, then He was entitled to wear a crown of thorns and to have a servant carry His cross. But the second reason for getting hold of Simon was that Jesus had been scourged. His back was bloody from the many lashes of the whip. Jesus was at the end of His physical strength. What a humiliation for the Son of God that He was unable carry His own cross. But why then does the Bible say that He must be bearing our sins alone. He should not need the help from sinful man in Atoning for our sins. He could have called twelve legions of angels to help Him. But now he got help from a sinful human. But let us now look at this event more carefully. When the Lord Jesus hung on the cross He was lifted up at least 3 to 4 feet off the ground. It means that the cross stood at least 10 feet tall. And to make the cross stand firm in the ground, it had at least 3 to 4 feet of wooden beam standing in a hole in the ground. Thus we can see that the whole construction of the cross would be about 14 feet long. The Lord Jesus was carrying the heaviest part, the front end, of the cross, and the rest of the cross was dragging behind Him, and it was slowing Him down tremendously. But it was a part of the usual punishment of those who were crucified that they must bear their own cross to the place of execution. Therefore John 19:17 says that Jesus was bearing His cross, whereas the other three Gospel writers say that Simon of Cyrene was bearing the cross of Jesus. When we harmonize all the verses we can easily see what was going on. Simon of Cyrene was carrying the lower end of the cross, so that Jesus could walk a little faster to His place of execution. Simon was not bearing the entire cross, but only the lighter end of it, behind Jesus. That is why we read in Luke 23:26, “that he might bear it after Jesus.”

Just like everyone else in the human race, Simon has never been interested in Jesus. He was not sick. He did not need a healer. He was a Jew, and that should be enough to get into heaven. That is what the Pharisees have told him all along. Well, that is what he might have thought. But afterward, when he talked with the disciples of Jesus, he heard that Jesus has said several times: "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me" (Matt 16:24). And then Simon realized that, unknowingly, he had been acting out that picture, carrying a cross and following Jesus. And since Jesus said, “If any man will come after Me”, we realize that Simon of Cyrene is a type or a figure of all those who have become saints of the Most High, and who are taking up their cross and follow Jesus. This is the cross that we must take when we follow Jesus.

And after Simon witnessed the events after Jesus was crucified and died on the cross, the 3 hours of darkness, the earthquake, the curtain in the Temple was rent from top to bottom, Simon realized that this was no ordinary man. This crucifixion needed some further investigation. Then Simon realized:

·        He was named after: Simeon (2X) (Gen 49:5-7, Josh 19:1)     

Who was Simeon? Please turn in your Bibles to Gen 49:5 (2X). Simeon was the second son of Jacob and Leah. The oldest son of Jacob was Reuben. But Reuben squandered the honor of being the firstborn by going to bed with his father's concubine. So Simeon was next in line for the great honor of the right of the firstborn. But Simeon and his brother Levi did worse than Reuben. They wiped out the city of Shechem by abusing the sacred ceremony of circumcision as a cloak for their cruel plan. But God would not leave such a crime unpunished. Later on, before their father Jacob died, they received the consequences for their evil deed. Judah, the fourth son of Jacob received the great honor of the right of the firstborn, bypassing Reuben, Simeon and Levi. In Gen 49:5-7 Jacob spoke these words,

Gen 49:5-7  Simeon and Levi are brethren; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations. O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united: for in their anger they slew a man, and in their self-will they digged down a wall. Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.

Therefore, Simeon and Levi were not to receive land as an inheritance. In fact, when the land of Canaan was divided by lot among the tribes of Israel, we read in Josh 19:1,

Josh 19:1  And the second lot came forth to Simeon, even for the tribe of the children of Simeon according to their families: and their inheritance was within the inheritance of the children of Judah.

As a result, the small tribe of Simeon completely disappeared within the tribe of Judah. Therefore the name Simon, or Simeon, bears the disgrace of being without inheritance. So Simon of Cyrene learned that he had no credentials of himself. His birthplace was outside the commonwealth of Israel. His name was connected with disgrace. The help he was giving Jesus to carry His cross did not even come out of himself. He was compelled by the Roman soldiers to do that. So Simon realized that he was not such a good man as he thought he was. In fact, he realized that he had not been a spiritual leader to his household and he has not been a good father to his sons Alexander and Rufus. The only reason why he was carrying the cross of Jesus was, because God chose him to be His servant, so that he was just passing by when the soldiers were looking for a man to carry His cross. God, through His irresistible grace, brought Simon of Cyrene in contact with Jesus. When Simon looked back on this experience, O what a sweet compulsion this was to carry the cross of Jesus. And now, when any burden or pain would rise up in his life, he considered it light, because he has seen the pain of Jesus, and he has come to know the burden of the cross of Jesus. And then we read in Mark 15:21 that He was:

Mark 15:21  And they compel one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross.

Why does God emphasize that he was the father of Alexander and Rufus? It must mean that at the time God wrote this Gospel through the hands of Mark, which was about 25 years later, Alexander and Rufus were well known to the Christians of those days. There is only one other reference to Rufus in the Bible. When God, through the hands of the Apostle Paul, wrote a long letter to the Christians in Rome, the Apostle also sent with that letter a great company of Saints to Rome. Many of them are listed in Rom 16. And there we read, in Rom 16:13, “Salute Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine.” Here we see that Rufus, who is most likely the son of Simon of Cyrene, was an assistant evangelist with the Apostle Paul, and Rufus' mother was with them, ministering to both of them. God sent these people to Rome, because the Christians in Rome were under attack. They needed support, because this was the time period when they were persecuted under Emperor Nero. This shows the courage of Rufus and his mother. This brief mention of Rufus and his mother reveals to us a great deal about the history that followed after Simon of Cyrene carried the cross of Jesus. Simon had some urgent business to do in the city at this early hour. Apparently he was just passing by when the soldiers grabbed him. But God had other plans with him. God made him come face to face with Jesus. Now he has seen this man. Jesus had done no crime, and yet He had been tortured and He was being crucified. Why? What was His crime? The plaque above His head read these words: "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews". Is this why the priests and Pharisees wanted Him dead? This is unbelievable! The Jews eagerly wanted to drive the Romans out of their country. So, why did they want to kill someone who was on their own side?

Please turn in your Bibles to the Acts of the Apostles, Acts 13:1 (2X). Then, at Pentecost, Peter preached a sermon that explained everything. Simon was there, and with him several other men from Cyrene were there. By God's grace, Simon was struck in his heart when Peter preached that sermon. Simon believed, and through his testimony his wife also believed. Their children Alexander and Rufus also were raised in the faith of Jesus. Then the persecution came and Simon and his family fled to Antioch, in Syria. Many years later we find Simon still in Antioch. We read in Acts 13:1,

Acts 13:1 Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

Here are five outstanding Christians who were all raised as Jews, and most likely two of them were from Cyrene in Africa: Lucius of Cyrene and Simeon, or Simon who was called Niger, or Black. This was most likely Simon of Cyrene. Two of these five men, Barnabas and Saul, were sent out as missionaries, with the blessings of the other three. Later, the wife of Simon and her two sons, Rufus and Alexander, joined Paul on his third missionary journey. We read about Alexander briefly in Acts 19:33 when he tried to silence an uprising at Ephesus. Rufus and his mother went on to Rome, preparing the way for Paul, while Alexander went with Paul and Silas back to Antioch. This was the story of the family of Simon of Cyrene, because God had mercy on them. And it all started when Simon carried the cross of Jesus. It was on this cross that the sins of Simon and of his wife and children were atoned for. God drew Simon of Cyrene forcibly to Jesus. He had no choice; he was compelled to bear the cross after Jesus. He did not ask for it, but God decided to save him. Is that how everyone is saved who gets to be saved? And is this how the saints carry their crosses after Jesus? Let us ask ourselves what it means to:

#3.       Bear Our Cross After Jesus (Matt 10:38, 11:30, 16:24-26, Luke 9:23, 2Tim 3:12)

Please turn in your Bibles to the Gospel of Matthew, Matt 10:38 (2X). What can we see when Simon of Cyrene carried the cross of Jesus behind Him? We see that Simon became identified with Jesus in bearing His cross. We see that it was identical to the cross that Jesus carried, but it was a much lighter part of it. In other words Simon shared in the purpose for which Jesus came, but his burden was light. Perhaps we remember that the Lord Jesus said in Matt 11:30, “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” There were mainly two purposes for which Jesus came; the first was to die for our sins; this He must do alone. The second purpose was to bring us the Gospel of grace through Christ crucified; and in this we can share. Like Simon, we can show people where the cross is. Like Simon, we can witness what the Lord has done for us. Like Simon, we can openly identify ourselves with Christ and with the cross of Christ, for we have personally witnessed from the Bible what sufferings the Lord Jesus has endured for our sins. We read in Matt 10:38, “And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.” Is this what Jesus meant when He said this? Should we not carry our own cross? Remarkably, when we search the Bible for verses that say “our own cross”, we do not find any. We only find the words “his cross”, and the words “the cross”, and the words “follow Me”, and the words “follow after Me”, which all refer to the lighter end of the cross of Jesus. But there are no verses that speak of “our own cross.” And thus, in order to obey the command to carry the cross after Jesus we need to remember the story of Simon of Cyrene, and then we remember that this refers to identifying ourselves with the Lord Jesus without fear and without shame, and testifying from the Bible of His great sufferings on the cross, and by being His ambassadors throughout the world. And this we must do every day, for we read in Luke 9:23, “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” It means that we carry the lighter end of this cross of Jesus every day. It means that we are ambassadors of Christ every day. Please turn in the Gospel of Matthew to Matt 16:24 (2X). We have here a passage that further elaborates on our task of witnessing for Christ. This task is not an option for anyone who is a true saint. We read in Matt 16:24-26,

Mt 16:24-26 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

Notice that verse 25 begins with the word “For.” What is the word “For” there for? It means that verse 25 explains what it means to come after Jesus, and to deny ourselves, and to take up his cross, and to follow Him. Paraphrased verse 25 says that whosoever will want to keep his own selfish lifestyle, shall lose the right to eternal life; and whosoever shall dedicate his life for Christ’s sake, shall find eternal life with Christ. This does not mean that salvation will be bestowed based on works, but it means that when we have become saved we will experience that we have become born from above, and now we have a different outlook on life, and we have different goals that we want to pursue. We have an innate desire to do those things that are pleasing in the sight of the Lord, and we know from the Bible that it pleases the Lord when we function as His ambassadors. We delight to see others becoming saved when we bring them the Gospel, and we rejoice with the angels in heaven when one sinner turns from his selfish ways and becomes one with us. And if that includes that we also must suffer persecution, we gladly include that as part of the package. God wrote in 2Tim 3:12, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” And this means that all the saints shall suffer persecution in one way or another. But no one can take our joy from us, for we have come to know our Savior; we have come to know His cross and we can direct people to where His cross can be found. AMEN. Let us turn to the Lord in prayer.