take it up

I was reading in John 19 the other day, and noticed this line: "So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull..." Perhaps it caught my attention because in the other three Gospels, we are told that Simon of Cyrene carries the cross for Jesus (Mt 27.32; Mk 15.21; Lk 23.26). Maybe Jesus started out carrying his cross then Simon had to take over. I like how that shows Jesus' vulnerability and his need of help, right to the end.

It seems important to me that Jesus didn't carry his cross. We often hear the words about "bearing our own cross," urging us forward under the load. But someone else came when Jesus' cross was too heavy and took it off him (even if it wasn't a voluntary act of compassion, the cross was taken off).

The passage we think of most often actually says, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (Mk 8.34) Take it up, not bear it. The willingness to take up the cross is important, even if we don't think we can carry it. If we can't (like Jesus couldn't), we can trust there will be someone there to lift it from us. It may even me more of a denial of self to admit that we cannot carry our cross and let someone else take it.