“As they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.”
Following his conviction and condemnation to death on the cross, the Lord Jesus was on his way to Golgotha. According to the law and to custom, the crucifixion had to take place outside the city. Also, the one who was condemned had to carry his own cross, because of the shame associated with the act. Jesus too had to carry his own cross.
But then something happened on the way. Jesus must have faltered and weakened so that He could no longer carry the cross. At that point, the soldiers forced a man named Simon (of Cyrene) to carry the cross for Jesus. Simon appears to be minding his own business, passing by on his way in from the country (Mark 15:21), when suddenly he became a participant in the crucifixion. Luke tells us that Simon was made to carry the cross behind Jesus.
When considering this incident on the way to Golgotha, we must focus on what the Lord Jesus was doing and what He was experiencing. He was the Lamb of God, being led outside the camp to the slaughter. He was being treated as a vile criminal, made to carry his cross like the two murderers who were with Him. He was being subjected to extreme cruelty. In addition, think about what He had already suffered in the twenty-four hours prior to the cross-bearing: the betrayal of Judas, the sorrow of Gethsemane, the confrontation of the mob, the scattering of the disciples, the denial of Peter, the injustice of the Sanhedrin, the false conviction of Pilate, the horrible treatment of the soldiers. He was mocked, beaten, spit upon, and rejected. His body was tender and striped from scourging. His head was scarred and bloody from the crown of thorns. Then came the latest humiliation: Jesus had to drag a heavy cross on his weary shoulders, like He was some kind of murderer who deserved no compassion or pity. Is it any wonder that Jesus was at the end of his human strength? That He could muster no more? He had become so weak from all his suffering that He could no longer bear the cross. He was unable to walk any farther. He needed the help of a passerby. Even then, not one was found willing to help Him. He was all alone. Jesus therefore had to accept the further humiliation of forced assistance. He became the image of the deepest human misery and weakness. It was one more step into humiliation along the path to his death on the cross. That’s our Saviour! That was his suffering! That’s what He did for us! He was humiliated so that we might be exalted. He was made a curse for us, so that we might receive God’s blessing.
Every incident describing the life of Jesus, including the final moments before his death, teaches us about the love of our Saviour. Also the account of Jesus carrying his cross teaches it. The Lord’s further humiliation of having to accept forced assistance impresses upon us what He was willing to suffer for our sake. In the full realization of that suffering, let us, with gratitude, follow the Lord Jesus in true discipleship.
Excerpt from Clarion, THE CANADIAN REFORMED MAGAZINE Volume 56, No. 7, pg. 157, March 30, 2007
Rev. J.G. Slaa is minister of the Canadian Reformed Church at Smithers, B.C. as of March 2016