Wednesday in the Third Week of Lent
Listen to the Sermon here.
Note: This sermon is adapted in large part from a series of sermons by Martin Luther and published under the title “Sermons on the Passion of Christ.”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Our reading ends with Jesus on the road to Golgotha. How would you apply this to yourself today? Two points caught my attention. First, we heard about Simon of Cyrene who was forced to carry the cross for Jesus. And second, Jesus’ command to the women who were weeping for Him to cry for themselves.
Simon was a pious man who had gone to Jerusalem to attend the feast, but when the soldiers saw that Jesus could no longer carry the cross which was placed on Him, they forced Simon to carry it following the Lord. Simon’s act of bearing the cross is a reminder to us that we too must bear the cross of Christ in our own lives. Just as Simon carried the heavy weight of the cross, we too must “take up [our] cross, and follow” Jesus (Mt 16:24). What does take up your cross mean? Simon of Cyrene gives us a clue. It doesn’t mean just to suffer in general, nor does it refer to suffering caused by our sins. Peter wrote, “Let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or a meddler. But if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed but let him glorify God in having that name” (1 Pe 4:15–16). Not all suffering is to be called a “cross;” because that which the wicked suffer is not their cross, but what they have earned for themselves. When Christians suffer, like Simon here, is called a “cross,” because it is not merited, it is something that others do to us.
As believers in Christ, we admit that we are flawed and have fallen short. We understand that our sins have caused us to experience hardships and difficulties in life, and we deserve even worse. Christians recognize their faults and mistakes. However, our pain and suffering are not always because of our sins, but also a part of our spiritual journey. The devil and the world despise us not because we sin, but because we have faith in Christ. We trust in His sacrifice on the cross and resurrection, and we strive to follow God’s will. We share the message of salvation and redemption with others, urging them to come to know Christ as we do. The devil and the world cannot stand this because it threatens their power and control. Taking up your cross means following in the footsteps of Simon, who helped Jesus carry His cross to Calvary. Simon, like all of us, was a sinner, but the soldiers didn’t make him suffer because of his sins. Rather, they made him suffer because Christ, who was carrying the cross, needed assistance.
As a believer in Christ, you acknowledge your sins and seek forgiveness. So you need to know that your sins are not the only cause of the struggles and hardships you face. The devil and the world will try to punish you for your faith in God and His Word. They would love it if you turned away from God and joined them instead. It is your belief in Christ, your trust in His Word, and your commitment to follow Him that sets you apart from the world and invites persecution.
But there’s a difference between Simon and Jesus. Simon carried the cross for a short while, only as far as the place of execution, before leaving. In contrast, Jesus allowed Himself to be nailed to the cross and died upon it. This difference between their sufferings is important because our suffering for the faith does not earn us forgiveness for our sins. Only through Jesus’ suffering on the cross can our sins be forgiven. He is the true Lamb of God who atones for the sins of the world, and it is for this reason that He hangs upon the cross. Only Jesus won our forgiveness by hanging and dying on the cross in our place.
We also heard of a moment when some women were following Jesus “who were mourning and lamenting him. But turning to them, Jesus said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and your children.'” Jesus warned them of God’s judgment, which was imminent because the people had not listened to His teachings. The people did not heed the warnings of John the Baptist or Jesus Himself. They called them crazy and demonic, and even put Jesus to death. Despite this, they believed they were in God’s blessing because they had the temple and the law of Moses. But Jesus counseled them to weep for their sins instead of mourning Him.
Today, we are also prone to ignore Jesus’ teachings and follow the ways of the world. We should weep for ourselves and our children because we are all sinners. We should weep for ourselves, because sin has polluted us, and now a terrible a judgment awaits us. Far too often the deeper we sink into the slime of sin, the more secure and joyful we grow. We are content with our material wealth and earthly pleasures. Far too often we are comfortable in our sin. We do not weep for our sins or fear God’s wrath.
But we must repent and grieve for our sins, just as Jesus exhorted the women in Jerusalem. We must remember that our sins will lead to eternal death unless we are forgiven. Yet, remember, why does Jesus suffer? He doesn’t deserve such a cruel fate but bears sin for your sake. And as He proceeds to the cross His goal is to sacrifice His body and His life upon the altar of the cross for you, so that this offering may reconcile you God, liberate you from His wrath, and make you an heir of everlasting life. We should rejoice and praise God for this gift, not weep for Jesus’ suffering. because His going to the cross has brought to us the grace of God, freed us from sin and death, and made us God’s dear children.
We must take Jesus’ advice to heart and weep for our sins. We must confess our sins to God and ask for forgiveness. We must resist our sinful nature and desires. We cannot ignore this warning, like the world does. We must fear God’s wrath and pray for mercy. Weep and cry to God for pardon from your sins. Earnestly resist and curb your evil, sinful nature and sinful desires.
May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.