As a young university student, I became friends with a man named Bill. Bill was a long-time member of our church, who had been born with a condition that affected all his movements and his speech. Walking was something he did with considerable difficulty, his movements jerky and somewhat unpredictable. His speech also was irregular and slurred. But it was always worth the effort of listening to him. He had a quick smile and a positive disposition, which were grounded in a strong faith.
One Good Friday service will always remain etched in my mind. It was the day Bill volunteered to carry the cross from the back of the sanctuary down the long main aisle to the front. None of us had thought that he would even consider such a challenge. And a challenge it was, as he wrestled with the cross and dragged it with him, staggering towards the front.
That scene contained a powerful message. I think Bill, a devout Christian, wanted us all to know that he could carry the cross he was given from birth in the resilient way he did, because Jesus had carried his cross on Good Friday.
Even as he suffered on the cross, Jesus did not forget the needs of others. The first three words from the cross have a strong outward focus. He responded to the need of his executioners for forgiveness: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34). He responded to the repentant thief’s need for hope: “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43). In his third word, he responded to his mother’s need for provision, protection and companionship: “Woman, behold your son!...Behold your mother!” (John 19:26, 27).
We discover that we, too, have been offered his words of forgiveness, hope and companionship. We discover, with my friend Bill, that whatever crosses we must bear in life, we can bear them with a resilient spirit, because of the One who bore his cross on Good Friday.