TAKING UP OUR CROSSES
Lord, give me the grace to carry whatever cross You lay on me.
Read MATTHEW 27:27–44
The Soldiers Mock Jesus
27 Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.
The Crucifixion of Jesus
32 As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. 33 They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). 34 There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. 35 When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 36 And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. 37 Above his head they placed the written charge against him: this is jesus, the king of the jews.
38 Two rebels were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” 41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42 “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Simon came to Jerusalem to participate in Passover, not knowing the pivotal role he would play in the eternally commemorated Passover.
Jesus’ Via Dolorosa winds its way through streets of a Jerusalem smaller than that which hosts the modern Good Friday procession on his awful journey from Pilate’s judgment hall to the Place of the Skull. It is beside the road and close to the city gate, chosen for its suitability for public viewing. Its name, Golgotha, has given way in Christian lingo to Calvary, from the word for skull in the Latin Bible and from which English-speaking people first learned it. On that little hill, which today no one can precisely identify, Jesus would face the final hours of his ordeal and the moment of triumph. The triumph of his death, foretold before time itself, would destroy forever the power of sin and open for all of us the path to God.
Jesus’ only real companion on the way is an African, Simon of Cyrene, from Libya, an innocent bystander no doubt terrified at being press-ganged into such a horrific procession. Surely, he will be permanently changed by this experience. Some theologians identify him with “Simeon called Niger,” an early Gentile convert. I personally agree. I can think of no reason for Mark to name Simon’s sons unless the family were known to his readers. My little suburban church is dedicated to Simon, and we like to think of ourselves as helping to carry Jesus’ cross through suburbia.
Jesus himself spoke of carrying our crosses as a picture of the life of a disciple. There are many kinds of crosses but, like Simon’s cross, the hardest to take up are those not of our own making, but which life thrusts upon us and compels us to bear. There is only one place to which Simon could carry the cross: to Calvary, and it is there that he lays it down.
Whatever crosses we bear, we too can take them to Calvary and there, at last, we too can lay them down.
Lord, help me to see when my spiritual duty involves helping someone else with their cross.
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