The inspiration for this book came first from Tim O’Brien’s collection of short stories reflecting on his time in Vietnam called The Things They Carried. In these stories we don’t just hear about the physical things that the soldiers carry, but also their terrors and dreams. Even as I was reading this book I was starting to wonder about the things that Jesus carried: not just the cross itself, but the crown of thorns he was forced to wear, the seamless robe that was taken from him, the other burdens that we laid upon him, and also the hopes and fears that he carried in his heart and that are reflected in the different passion narratives we read in scripture. Then in 2005 I was asked to preach for the Good Friday ‘Three Hours’ service at St Paul’s Cathedral. A big preach indeed! I wondered whether an examination of the things that Jesus carried might be a good way of re-presenting the story of the passion and help get inside both the feelings and the meaning. Those Good Friday reflections have now been expanded and developed into this book.
As I have written I have imagined myself at the cross. I have striven for away of writing that is more meditative than analytical; more poetry than prose. (I even wonder whether you might consider reading it aloud to yourself!) Obviously the scriptures are my primary inspiration; but intaking liberties with the letter of the text (and daring to suggest I can tell you how Jesus might have felt) I have tried to write something that will get inside the spirit of the story and offer a vessel for your own feelings and questions. Hence, at the end of each chapter there are some suggestions for reflection. This can either be done on your own, or in a group with others. In this process, I hope the book will stimulate thought, provoke discussion and create space for contemplation. In order to understand the cross you need to stand under it. This has to be done with the imagination as well as the mind. With heart as well as head. This book aims to help in this process of standing under. But however you use it – on your own or with others – I hope you will receive some small appreciation of just how much the cross weighs, and maybe even pick it up yourself.