Getting Up at 5AM To Exercise and Luke 9:22-27: What Do They Have In Common?

Posted: January 29, 2015 in Uncategorized

Luke 9:22-27 — Ever since the new year began, I have been exercising 5 days a week. I walk on the the treadmill and lift weights for an hour each morning before I sit down here to write. However, when it’s really cold outside (and also in my garage), I sometimes do the one thing that I hate the most in exercising – stair climbs. On those really cold mornings, this is my choice because it is warm inside my house. However, it is, at this point, in my exercise development, the most intense thing I do when exercising. Up and down. Not only is it strenuous on my leg muscles (all of them!) but it is aerobic as well. Today, I did the most stair climbs I have ever done at one time, 60 climbs in 55 minutes. I was so out of breath and tired when I finished that I can still feel it now as I write these words.

Why do I mention this when writing about Luke 9:22-27, it made me really think about the physical aspect of carrying the cross. Jesus was speaking metaphorically but He used something that the people knew about. Jesus was always doing that in His preaching and teaching. He used reference points that the people of first century Palestine would easily understand to drive His points about the Kingdom of God home. Many first century Jews and Gentiles had been killed on the cross by the Romans. It was the signature punishment for breaking Roman law. It was public. It was humiliating but was only the final part of a three part humiliating and deadly punishment process. First, you were scourged with a cat-o-nine tails whip that had metal balls with bone fragments embedded in them a the end of each lash of the whip. You were tied to a post and they would literally beat you to within an inch of your life. The metal balls and bone fragments on the whip lashes would come flying at your body hit it, grab hold, and rip flesh as the Roman soldier pulled back the whip. All of this happens in seconds of course (much less time that it takes to write the description of it or even you reading it). Repeatedly, Repeatedly, split seconds of heighten pain and bloodiness.

Next was the humiliation of all humiliations, not only was your bleeding body of ripped flesh going to die on the cross but you had to carry your own cross beam on your shoulders to the site where the vertical beams were. As I struggled with my last 10-15 stair climbs, trying to catch my breath, it made me think of all the poor folks that were crucified by the Romans in this way, most of all, my Savior, Jesus Christ. Imagine, this innocent man, God in the flesh, in His humanity, is physically beaten almost, but not quite, to the point of death. Now, He must carry His own cross beam through the streets of Jerusalem. Not an easy journey for a healthy man. Jerusalem was a mishmash of centuries of building and rebuilding, different levels, stairs, uneven roadways. You had to be careful and watch your step even when you were healthly much less losing lots of blood and carrying a heavy cross beam tied to your shoulders. Carrying your cross. Physically, you are in a complete daze. Your body is trying to shut down. Your body is stinging from the raw flesh and oozing blood. As I challenge myself physically to try this year to get 15-25 lbs of weight off my body, I am sometimes pushing my body to what I think are my limits. I am not however doing it with a bloodied body (and the Passion of the Christ had the scourging more right than any movie before it or since). My body is intact. I am just pushing the limits of a body that has been allowed years of inactivity or at least not consistent exercise. My Savior was at death’s door as he walked through Jerusalem’s uneven, dirty streets, and up stairs between sections of town.

At the cross, Jesus, like many other first century Palestinians, suffered a painfully slow death where the weight of your body and its physical pain actually caused your body to suffocate itself from within. Maybe, at a later, time we can spend more time on the details of crucifixion. It is not the Jesus is alive one minute and dead the next kind of death that is portrayed in the movies. It was an excruciating and painful process that sometimes took days. Thankfully, for Jesus it was only 9 hours.

But let’s just focus now for the moment of carrying the cross through town. This is the cross bearing that Jesus speaks of to the crowd. This is the humiliation that first century Palestinians had become all too familiar. With this word picture, Jesus presented a clear and challenging picture of the Christian life. Being His disciple means putting aside my selfish desires, and shouldering the burden of being a Christ follower every day. It is simple yet so demanding. We are to love God and love others daily. It goes against our nature to love others more than we love ourselves. It goes against our grain not to look out for number one, for ourselves. For the original disciples, bearing the cross meant suffering and death. Each one of them except for John would be killed because their beliefs ran counter to the cultures and governments of their day. For us today, it means understanding that we belong to Him and that we live to serve Jesus’ purposes and not our own. We must understand that we are not the central character in this story that is being written. It is God who is the main character not us. We are here to serve Him and not the other way around.

The question that we must ask ourselves is do I live my life to serve God and His purposes or do I live as though the God of the universe is supposed to serve me and my needs? Are you willing to deny yourself and serve Him? Are you willing to serve others so that they can see Jesus? Do you see your money as your own and not as God gifting to you for the talents He gave you? Do you serve Him with your resources? Are you scared to share the story of the gospel because it makes you uncomfortable? Are you willing to leave a life of comfort to go into full time ministry here at home or in a foreign land where the needs are great and the gospel is not spoken? How big of a cross beam are you willing to shoulder? Is it a toothpick or a log? Are you only willing to put your “yes” on the table when its convenient? Are you only willing to serve when it doesn’t interfere with your hobbies? Anything less than putting God first in your life and following wherever He leads is simply lip service to the King. Lip service to a King that suffered the most excruciating death ever just so you would have the opportunity for salvation. Lip service to the innocent Lamb. Lip service to the righteous judge who will discern our love for Him at our personal judgment day or when He returns in glory in the eastern sky. Either way, we will be judged for whether we took up our cross. Are you willing to walk up stairs with your cross tied to your shoulders just so others will know the love of Jesus Christ that you know? Are you willing to pay the price?

Just as this overweight guy is trying his best to lose weight by paying the price of getting up early and exercising every day, I must also be willing to pay the price whatever that may be to follow my Savior daily wherever He has my mission field. I must be a Christ follower even when its not pretty or convenient. I must be a Christ follower even when it costs me something. I must be a Christ following when it is not convenient. I must be Christ follower when it is not popular. I must BE a Christ follower. Daily. I must carry the cross.

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