Seven Shocking Sins (4)
The seventh and final shocking sin is, of course, the crucifixion itself (vv. 31-32).
Normally the victim was forced to walk naked to the place of crucifixion and was scourged along the way. But since Jesus had already been scourged this custom was abandoned. If it had been repeated, Jesus may well have died before reaching Calvary.
Custom also required that the victim carry the cross-beam on which he would be nailed. It weighed between 30 and 40 pounds. But it was physically impossible for Jesus to do so. Following the emotionally tense atmosphere in the upper room, the agonies of Gethsemane, the betrayal by Judas, the denial by Peter, the trial and torture by the Sanhedrin, several hours in a filthy dungeon, another trial by Pilate and Herod, the ordeal of being scourged, and the abuse from the soldiers, it comes as no surprise that Jesus was incapable of carrying the beam.
Simon was probably a Jewish pilgrim who had journeyed to Jerusalem for Passover. He was from Cyrene, the equivalent of modern Libya. There is an important lesson for us in his role.
In seeing Simon carrying the cross of Jesus to Calvary we ought to see ourselves carrying the cross we justly deserved to our own Calvary. It is we who escorted Jesus to Calvary and nailed him to our cross. Might we not imagine ourselves in Simon's place, bearing that heavy load to Calvary, not knowing if the soldiers might decide to impale our bodies to it as well, only then to hear the voice of Jesus say: "Give it here friend; it is for me to suffer thereon, not you."
Let us never forget who this is that suffers such brutal treatment from the hands of men like you and me. Let us never forget the intrinsic excellency of his person and the brightness of God's glory which he embodied. Jesus is the express image of the invisible God, sovereign over all, the eternal Word by whom all things were created and through whom all things are continually sustained. He is the heir of all things, the prince and king of all princes and kings. He is pre-existent glory, worshipped and adored by cherubim and seraphim. "Yet here He sits, treated worse than a felon, made the center of a comedy before He became the victim of a tragedy" (Spurgeon).
We must never forget that "at the very time when they were thus mocking Him, He was still the Lord of all, and could have summoned twelve legions of angels to His rescue. There was majesty in His misery . . . . [and] had he willed it, one glance of those eyes would have withered up the Roman cohorts; one word from those silent lips would have shaken Pilate's palace from roof to foundation" (Spurgeon). But he said nothing. He did nothing. Why? Because of his love for you and me!
We must be careful that we do not commit a similar offense against him by our hypocritical professions of love and loyalty. We are guilty of this when we "pretend" to be his disciples and loudly proclaim our allegiance, yet care for him no more than did the soldiers. Says Spurgeon,
"Oh, if your hearts are not right within you, you have only crowned him with thorns; if you have not given him your very soul, you have in awful mockery thrust a sceptre of reed into his hand. Your very religion mocks him. Your lying professions mock him. . . . You insult him on your knees! How can you say you love him, when your hearts are not with him? If you have never believed in him, and repented of sin, and yielded obedience to his command, if you do not own him in your daily life to be both Lord and King, I charge you [to] lay down the profession which is so dishonouring to him. If he be God, serve him; if he be King, obey him; if he be neither, then do not profess to be Christians. Be honest and bring no crown if you do not accept him as King."
But the mocking and reviling did not stop with that. It continued as they nailed him to the cross.
To be continued . . .