Judges Chapter 9: 48 “And Abimelech got him out to Mt. Zalmon, he and all the people that were with him. And Abimelech took an axe in his hand, and cut down a bough from the trees, and took it and laid it on his shoulder; then he said to the people who were with him, ‘What you have seen me do, make haste and do as I have done.’”
The doors of the Court of Justice are open, the Sentence has been pronounced, Pilate has washed his hands of the matter, the Jews have chosen Barabas, in the place of Jesus Christ, and have called down the blood of the innocent One on their own heads. The door opens and Jesus bearing his cross comes forth. What do we behold, we see the Son of the Living God, going forth to die. We see Him descend the steps, with the heavy log of the Cross, laid on His shoulders. We see Him bowed under its’ weight dragging it along the streets of Jerusalem.
As God of old planted the tree of life, in the midst of Eden, so does now the only begotten Son, about to recreate Paradise, the Garden of His Church, go forth to plant in the midst of it, the tree for the healing of the nations. As Noah laid the keel of the ark, wherein the representatives of all living things were to be saved from the great water flood, so now does He go forth, dragging the keel, of the true ark, His Church, into which all such as seek eternal life from Sin and death, shall find admission, where they will be assured of safety, in the storms that sweep over the troubled sea of human affairs.
Jacob saw in a vision, a ladder reaching unto heaven, crowded with Angels, ascending and descending. And lo, now Jesus goes forth to plant His cross, to be the ladder uniting heaven and earth, down which may flow innumerable blessings, up which may mount innumerable Supplications. Angels are messengers from heaven to earth, and from earth to heaven. As Jacob took his staff, leaned on it, to pass over the stream, so does Jesus raise His cross, to be the God staff, to comfort all who cross the river of death, that holding fast to it, they may not be swept away.
As Moses lifted up his rod over the sea, to open a highway for the people, so does Jesus take His cross and therewith procure emancipation for His Chosen from the bondage of Satan into the glorious liberty of the Sons of God. As Joshua held up his spear against Ai, a sign that the city was to be taken, so does Jesus bear His cross, to lift it up on Calvary, a token of ruin to Jerusalem, and of victory, to the true Israel. As David went against Goliath with a shepherd’s staff, so does Jesus advance against Satan, who has so long defied the armies of the Living God, to overthrow Him and take from him his armour wherein he trusted and to divide his spoils.
What is this that you see Righteous Abel, going forth into the fields to sacrifice, led by Cain who seeks to slay him? Isaac ascending the mountain and bearing the wood, that is to be laid in order on the altar to consume him. David fleeing from the City before his rebel son, crossing over the brook, with Shimri cursing him as he was going. Although innocent, accused by false witnesses, condemned by unjust judges, led without the City to be stoned.
The Scape Goat, burdened with the sins of the people, driven from the camp. “He bearing His cross went forth” What was this cross which the Son of Man bore on His shoulders and drew to Golgatha. It was not the wood only that was laid upon Him, the long beam, the cross piece. The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all. Sorrow, pain, insult, curses, the pain of the soul, all went up to add weight to that cross. The pain of the body, exhaustion after a sleepless night, the bruises on His face, the scratches of the thorns, the blows. His back swollen and purple with scourging, the galling of the shoulders, caused by the jerking of the beam—down the steps over the pavement. The pain of mind, the mental strain throughout the trial, before Annas, Caiaphas, Pilate and Herod, the instinctive dread of death, the natural shrinking from insults and wounds. The pain of soul, the humiliation of false accusations, of slanders listened to and believed, of desertions by His disciples, the break in the daily association with his mother, of knowing the agony His death would cause her – these were some of the burdens laid on His shoulders—these helped to make the cross so heavy—yet He went forth bearing it meekly—As Abimelech when he went up against the town of Shechem laid a bough on his shoulders, and turning to his people said–What you have seen me do-make haste, and do as I have done. So does our leader Jesus address us. If any man come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
You who profess to follow me—You who have taken on you my name—who have been signed with my cross, enrolled yourselves in my army—profess to fight under my banner, do what you have seen me do, make haste, take up your crosses and follow me—What are these crosses which he bids us take up?–Each one has his own peculiar cross, the crosses are many and various, which we are bidden to take up—We are called to resistance of temptation, restraint of appetite—war against self love, endurance of annoyance caused by other, bodily infirmities, weak hearts, bad sight, loss of limbs—deafness, a hasty temper, disappointments and discomforts, in short whatever the body or the soul is required to endure, there is many a cross which weighs heavily enough to him who bears it—but which, might hardly seem a cross to others—poverty is indeed a cross, but you would hardly suppose that riches could be one also—yet wealth may be a cross, a burden laid on the shoulders entailing many duties. Insignificance may be felt to be a cross but you would think, not elevation of position—yet indeed it is—There are places on the Continent of Europe, when at merry making a paste-board King of gigantic size splendidly attired, moves along the streets. What height, what magnificence, yet deep within, you find a toiling, sweating man who moves the great figure along with great exertion and labor—So is it with what we covet -wealth and position, we see the paste-board outside with all its gilding, and forget the weary mortal within – Has not everyone of you some cross, perhaps within yourselves, perhaps in your families, perhaps in your surroundings, but a cross you all have. Now what says Christ, if any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. What you have seen me do, make haste and do as I have done. Let each one take up his own cross, not wish to exchange it for another, for God has apportioned to each the load he is able to bear. God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted, above that you are able, but will with the temptation also, make a way to escape that you may be able to bear it. If He feedeth His people with the bread of tears, and gives them tears to drink in abundance, yet it is in measure. Jesus became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. It was in obedience that He took up His cross, laid it on his shoulder and went forth bearing it—Whatever be the cross laid before us, it is that which God has ordained to be born by us in obedience to His will. We must stoop and take it up and carry it.
And observe, moreover, that Jesus asks not who gives Him His cross, from whatever quarter it comes, whether from the Jewish High Priest, or from the Gentile Governor, or from the multitude, or from the soldiers, it is all one. He makes no complaint. He accepts it as it is—He bears it—It should be so with us—But is there though some tendency to take crosses laid on us by others, do we not fling these down and dispute over them and argue that they are not ours and we will not bear them? We repudiate them not because of their size of weight, but because of the person that offers them. We are affronted, neglected, disparaged and we give up at once. Our pride is hurt, our anger is aroused. We will not bear it, we will resent it. And yet it is a cross designed for us to bear. We cannot obtain what we have set our hearts on. Some impediment stands in the way of the execution of the cherished scheme. We trace it to some other persons want of forethought, or stubborn opposition, and our hearts turn bitter against them.
And yet it is a cross designed for us to bear. We have met with some affliction in our family, it may be death—Who was to blame was our first thought? But blame is thrown on some one, though often undeservedly. Some one is charged with neglect. It may be the physician, or the nurse, and often times a lurking resentment is felt, and yes, hard words may be spoken. The trouble is, we will not take up the cross, because we feel that the cross is laid upon us and we have to suffer through no fault of our own. But though the fault of some one else. And yet God places the cross there. I find that people are very unwilling to take up their crosses and bear them as did Christ. They are ready enough to carry ornamental crosses of gold or jewels on their breast, of hanging crosses to their ears, of having them stamped on their Prayer Books and Hymnals. I have even seen umbrella handles made like crosses, but as for bearing the cross of humiliation, the cross of self-denial, the cross of warfare against evil – that is a very different matter.
Let the cross be worn on the breast by all means, but not as a mere ornament. Let it be a reminder to us that, by our own profession, we are all cross bearers—that in daily life, there are to be found crosses, which God has laid there, for us to take up and bear– that the crosses we are called to bear, if we be His disciples, are irksome, wounding to flesh and blood. But then remember what he did as on this day, and that as in the language of the text, we hear Him saying—What ye have seen me do, make haste and do as I have done—
El Paso, Texas
April 11, 1884