Jesus said to his disciples, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow me" (Matthew 16:24). However, Jesus could not carry his cross and neither can you!

As Jesus bore his own cross to Golgotha, led by his tormentors, he was too weak and frail to carry it for long. When he had reached the end of his endurance, his cross was laid on another's shoulder. The Bible doesn't tell us how far Jesus carried his cross but we do know Simon, the Cyrene, was compelled to pick it up and carry it to the place of crucifixion (see Matthew 27:32).

What does this mean to us? Would our Lord make us do something he could not do? Did he not say, "...whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27)? A cross is a cross, be it wooden or spiritual. It is not enough to say, "His cross was different—our cross is spiritual."

Personally, it gives me great hope to know that Jesus could not take up his own cross. It encourages me to know that I am not the only one burdened down to the ground at times, unable to go on in my own strength.

Jesus knew exactly what he was saying when he called us to "take up our cross and follow him." He remembered his own cross and that another had to carry it for him. Why then would he ask us to shoulder a cross he knows will soon crush us to the ground? He knows all about the agony, the helplessness, and the burden that a cross creates. He knows we can't carry it all the way in our own strength.

There is a truth hidden here that we must uncover, a truth so powerful, it could change the way we look at all our troubles and hurts. It may sound almost sacrilegious to suggest Jesus did not carry his own cross, but that is the truth.

God knows that not one of his children can carry the cross they take up when following Christ. We want to be good disciples by denying ourselves and taking up our cross, but we seem to forget that that same cross will one day bring us to the end of our human endurance. Would Jesus purposely ask us to take up a cross that he knows will sap all our human energies and leave us lying helpless, even to the point of giving up? Absolutely yes! Jesus forewarns us, "Without me ye can do nothing" (John 15:5). So he asks us to take up our cross, struggle on with it, until we learn that lesson. Not until our cross pushes us down into the dust do we learn the lesson that it is not by our might or power or strength, but by his power. That is what the Bible means when it says his strength is made perfect in our weakness.