“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death” (Philippians 3:10)
Jesus willingly bore the cross. When the time had come, He did not run from Jerusalem. He set His face like a flint to enter the city known for stoning its prophets. He did not hide His face from shame and spitting. He gave His back to those who smote Him and His cheeks to those who pulled out His hair. He was dumb as a sheep is before her shearers. He went like a lamb to the slaughter without opening His mouth.
Jesus embraced the cross. He had said, “No man takes my life from Me. I lay it down.”
There are no pictures of Jesus resisting arrest in Gethsemane. We have no scenes of Him screaming at the Sanhedrin. No one had to compel Him to carry His cross to Golgotha. He did not struggle and fight with those who were preparing to nail Him to the cross. Jesus embraced the cross. He had said, “No man takes my life from Me. I lay it down.” Jesus was not cornered by merciless men. He could have easily gotten out of His terrible predicament. He could have called twelve legions of angels and they would have rescued Him from the clutches of evil hands. But He accepted suffering and death, even at the hands of those who did not know God. He had received a command of the Father that included just such a death on the cross. He knew that it pleased the Lord to bruise Him and put Him to grief when His soul became an offering for sin. (Isa. 53:10) Yes, an offering. An offering is something given, not taken. Jesus was not the victim of cruel fate. He was not forced against His will to suffer and die. On the contrary, He was appointed by His Father to undergo the worst cruelties that men can inflict upon men. He took it all, and He took it all patiently, not simply to justify us by bearing the punishment for our sins in His body, but to make our spirits as righteous as His as we learn how to suffer as He did.
When Jesus calls us to take up our cross, He calls us to embrace our cross the way He did His.
All that Jesus did, He did for us. He suffered for us. He died for us. He sanctified Himself for our sakes. (John 17:19) He left us an example that we should follow in His footsteps. He is our pattern in all things. When Jesus calls us to take up our cross, He calls us to embrace our cross the way He did His. But if we are raging against those who treat us unjustly; if we are wanting revenge upon those who mistreat us; if we are cursing those who would harm us; we know nothing of Christ’s cross. To identify with Christ is to align our response to the flawed, evil world that surrounds us to His response. It means not being overcome by evil, but overcoming evil with good. It is remaining a light in the world because we refuse to let the darkness make us dark.
As long as we retain our anger; as long as we refuse to tolerate the wrong done to us; as long as we decide that we will go down fighting; we have yet to learn Christ. Like it or not, we will all face suffering. The choice is whether we will suffer poorly or well.
Be a disciple indeed. Be like your Master. Take up your cross. Suffer well.