Take Up Your Cross

brown wooden cross

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Reading the Word

Mark 15:20–21 (ESV)

20 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him.

21 And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.

Parallel Texts: Matthew 27:31-32; Luke 23:26

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus had been flogged multiple times in the previous hours. Those beatings left him battered and too weak to carry his cross to the execution site. Therefore, the Roman soldiers drafted a man named Simon to carry Christ’s cross for him. We really know nothing more of Simon other than this incident. Some speculate that Simon’s son, Rufus, may be the same Rufus that Paul mentions in Romans 16:13. If so, perhaps this encounter had a profound impact on him. However, there is no way to be sure.

Jesus calls on all of his followers to take up their cross and follow him (Matthew 16:24-26). We are called to not simply be spectators of Christ’s pain and suffering, but we are called to live out Jesus’ teachings and to expect the same kinds of rejection and suffering that Jesus received. It is a small price to pay to belong to Christ and it is a great honor to follow in his steps.

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Who Is Jesus?

Matthew 1616 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Matthew 16:13–20 (ESV)

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

Parallel Texts: Mark 8:27-30; Luke 9:18-21

Understanding and Applying the Word

Who is Jesus? That’s an important question and it’s the question Jesus put to his disciples. First, he asked the disciples what the people were saying about him. It seems that the people were convinced Jesus was some sort of prophet, but they were unsure of exactly which prophet. Perhaps he was one of the great prophets from the Old Testament come back to life?

After Jesus’ initial question about what the people were saying, he asked his disciples who they thought Jesus was. Peter replied, “You are the Christ (i.e. Messiah), the Son of the living God.” With this statement, Peter affirmed his belief that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah from the line of David who would deliver and save his people. Jesus responded to Peter by calling him “blessed” because no person (i.e. flesh and blood) had revealed this truth to Peter, it had been revealed by God. This truly was a divine blessing!

Today, every person must answer the same question posed to the disciples. Who is Jesus? There are many responses to this question. Some say Jesus was a great teacher, others say he was simply a man that legend has inflated through the years, and still others try to say he did not exist at all (even the overwhelming majority of secular scholars admit that Jesus really existed). However, there are some today that echo the words of Peter. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. He came to save his people and deliver them and he did just that by going to a cross and dying as a sacrifice for sins. Jesus’ resurrection on the third day authenticated who he was and his life, death, and resurrection give hope to all who recognize him and trust in his name.

We are entering into the Easter season over the next two weeks where Christians remember the death of Jesus on the cross and celebrate his resurrection. There is no better time than now to ask this question: Who do you say Jesus is? It is the most important question you will ever answer. You owe it to yourself to seek out the answer and pray that God would open your eyes to the truth.

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God Speaks Peace to His People

Colossians 119–20 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Psalm 85:1–8 (ESV)

1 Lord, you were favorable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob. 2 You forgave the iniquity of your people; you covered all their sin. Selah 3 You withdrew all your wrath; you turned from your hot anger. 4 Restore us again, O God of our salvation, and put away your indignation toward us! 5 Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger to all generations? 6 Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? 7 Show us your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation. 8 Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints; but let them not turn back to folly.

Understanding and Applying the Word

These verses describe a restored relationship between God and his people. God, in his grace, forgave the people of their sin and showed his love for them.

Our sin is a great offense to God because he is holy. We are told that our sin separates us from God and that we stand condemned as a result. Yet, God is gracious and forgiving towards those who will repent of their sin and call out to him for forgiveness. He speaks peace to the repentant and restores the lost relationship. No longer does our sin condemn us, but we are called the people of God.

How is this possible? Because of the cross. Jesus Christ suffered and died in our place. He paid for our sin so that we could go free. The cross is the reminder that peace with God has been made possible for all who believe. Praise the Lord for his salvation!

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Longing for the Presence of God

Wailing Wall

Reading the Word

Psalm 84:1–4 (ESV)

1 How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! 2 My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. 3 Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God. 4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise! Selah

Understanding and Applying the Word

In these verses, the psalmist speaks about beauty of the dwelling place of God. In the immediate context, this spoke of the temple in Jerusalem where the people would go to worship, offer their sacrifices, and celebrate the yearly festivals. The temple was an ever important place to the Jewish people because it was the place where God dwelled among them. And it looked forward to a time when God would dwell with his people in an even greater way.

The Bible looks forward to a day when God will dwell fully with his people. In the Book of Genesis, God dwelled with the man and woman in the garden of Eden, but they were sent away from his presence after they sinned. Through the work of redemption, God has made it possible for mankind to reestablish a relationship with him. It is done through the cross of Jesus Christ where sin was atoned for. This who repent of their sins and trust in the work of Christ will be saved and receive eternal life in the presence of God forever in a new heaven and new earth. Blessed are those who dwell in the presence of the living God!

**Shaped by the Word is a daily Bible reading devotional. Please use the links at the bottom to subscribe to this page. You can also share this post with your friends through social media using the buttons below. Thanks for reading!

Raise a Song!

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Reading the Word

Psalm 81:1–4 (ESV)

1 Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob! 2 Raise a song; sound the tambourine, the sweet lyre with the harp. 3 Blow the trumpet at the new moon, at the full moon, on our feast day. 4 For it is a statute for Israel, a rule of the God of Jacob.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Israel was instructed to celebrate their festivals corporately. These festivals were put in place by God as ways to remind the people of what he had done for them as each festival looked pointed to God’s work on their behalf. The particular festival in view in this psalm pointed the Israelites to the Exodus. As part of the celebration the people would sing together with musical instruments.

We too, as Christians, are called to gather corporately to worship and remember all that God has done. Hebrews 10:25 tells us not to neglect gathering with fellow believers. While there are many things to sing about, the focus of our worship is the crucified and risen Savior, Jesus Christ. He is our salvation and the cross is the pivotal moment in the history of the world. Let us raise a song for joy to our God for all he has done!

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Judgment and Grace

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Reading the Word

Psalm 78:59–64 (ESV)

59 When God heard, he was full of wrath, and he utterly rejected Israel. 60 He forsook his dwelling at Shiloh, the tent where he dwelt among mankind, 61 and delivered his power to captivity, his glory to the hand of the foe. 62 He gave his people over to the sword and vented his wrath on his heritage. 63 Fire devoured their young men, and their young women had no marriage song. 64 Their priests fell by the sword, and their widows made no lamentation.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Because of Israel’s rebellion and because they turned to idolatry (v. 58), God removed his presence from among the people. Yet, God remained with Judah (cf. v. 68). In his anger, God allowed the tabernacle at Shiloh to be destroyed and the ark of the covenant to be captured, which was symbolic of his power and glory. Young men and priests were killed and the widowed women were so overwhelmed that they did not weep.

We must be careful not to trivialize sin. We can focus so much on the love and grace of God that we forget his holiness and justice. Scripture tells us that God will one day pour out his wrath in judgment on sin. The bad news is we are all sinners and deserve his wrath. The good news is that God himself has provided a way for our sin to be payed for. He sent his Son into the world to die in our place. He went to the cross to take the punishment that we deserve and when we place our trust in him, our sins are forgiven and we are reconciled to God, our holy Creator. The cross is a reminder of both the reality that sin will be judged and that God is gracious to sinners who repent and believe. Let us not forget either truth.

**Shaped by the Word is a daily Bible reading devotional. Please use the links at the bottom to subscribe to this page. You can also share this post with your friends through social media using the buttons below. Thanks for reading!