“Now as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. Him they compelled to bear His cross. And when they had come to a place called Golgotha, that is to say, Place of a Skull, they gave Him sour wine mingled with gall to drink. But when He had tasted it, He would not drink. Then they crucified Him…” (Matthew 27:32-35a)

By the time Jesus reached Golgotha, He was weak and weary, bludgeoned and bloodied. So much so, another had to carry His cross. Many deem Simon as privileged for having taken His burden, but the fact is he was a lowly slave left with little choice in the matter. An unruly “they” demanded it of him.

As for the believer, carrying the cross comes by way of invitation. There is no “they” that makes us, but rather “He” who takes us. Only those who accept understand the true meaning of privilege. This blessed privilege comes cloaked in paradox. As we take up our cross, burdens are surprisingly lifted. Yes, we’re granted rest for the soul with the weight and worries of this world placed squarely on the shoulders of Jesus. This too is His promise.

It is here the incredible journey begins: we deny ourselves, pick up the cross and follow after Him. This marks the starting point of sacrificial love. Our supreme example is He who surrendered all on Golgotha. As much we look to that holy hill, this is not where sacrifice began for our Savior. It began when he stepped down from heaven and took upon Himself a cloak of flesh. From that point on, sacrifice became His daily bread. Comforts and conveniences were continually laid on the altar for the sake and salvation of others.

For this reason, Jesus refused the mixture of sour wine and gall prior to His crucifixion. This pharmaceutical cocktail was offered to dull the senses and lessen the pain. It would have been easier for Jesus to welcome a dose of medicine, but He was not interested in easy outs. Love never is. It is marked by sacrifice, choosing the road less traveled – that which Jesus described as “narrow”. The broad road is preferred for its ease, but love does not travel there. That’s where it is trampled on over and over again.

Love was surely trampled on by those who led Jesus to Golgotha. Yet it was upon this sacred mount that love also triumphed. The burden of sin was fully paid. An easy out would have meant a balance due for you and I to pay. It would’ve cost our very lives. That was one cup Jesus was unwilling to accept. Therefore, he rejected the wine for the cup of suffering. As He heard so clearly in The Garden, there was no other way.

The wages of sin demanded the ultimate sacrifice. There was only one qualified to settle so great a debt – God Himself! Therefore, He became flesh and took the full punishment, for our sake and our salvation. In His final breath The Lord declared, “Paid in full.” There on Golgotha He guzzled from the chalice of agony. It wasn’t easy. It was love – a love that refuses to be numbed by sour mixtures of another cup.

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