Invited to Participate In the Fellowship of His Sufferings: Would You Help Jesus Carry the Cross or Would You Leave Him to Suffer Alone?

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ as it was written and recorded by the apostle Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses thirty-two through fifty-six of the twenty-seventh chapter. “Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers. And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe. And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! And they spit upon Him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head. And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, AND LED HIM AWAY TO CRUCIFY HIM” (Matthew 27:27-31). THEY STRIPPED HIM! THEY MOCKED HIM! THEY SPIT UPON HIM! THEY SMOTE HIM! THEY LED HIM AWAY TO CRUCIFY HIM! “And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross” (Matthew 27:32). THE MAN WHO DENIED JESUS! THE MAN WHO BETRAYED JESUS! THE MAN WHO CONDEMNED JESUS TO DIE! THE MAN WHO CARRIED JESUS’ CROSS! THE MAN WHO WENT FREE AS JESUS WAS CONDEMNED! THE MAN WHO CRIED OUT FOR MERCY UPON THE CROSS! TESTIMONIES AND STORIES IN THE MIDST OF SUFFERING! “And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull, They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink. AND THEY CRUCIFIED HIM, AND PARTED HIS GARMENTS, CASTING LOTS: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots. And sitting down they watched him there; and set up over his head his accusation written, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS. Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left” (Matthew 27:33-38). CRUCIFIED IN THE MIDDLE! JESUS WASN’T CRUCIFIED ON THE LEFT! JESUS WASN’T CRUCIFIED ON THE RIGHT! JESUS WAS CRUCIFIED IN THE MIDDLE! JESUS NOT ONLY HAD HIS ARMS OUTSTRETCHED AS HE HUNG THERE UPON THE CROSS, BUT HE ALSO HAD ONE ARM STRETCHED OUT TO ONE THIEF, AND THE OTHER ARM OUSTRETCHED TO THE OTHER THIEF!

            “And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads , and saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God. The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth” (Matthew 27:39-44).

            “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachtani? That is to say, My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me? Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias. And straightway one of them ran, and took a spunge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink. The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him” (Matthew 27:45-49).

            “Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost” (Matthew 27:50).

            “And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many” (Matthew 27:51-53).

            “Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God. And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him: among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and JOses, and the mother of Zebedee’s children” (Matthew 27:54-56).

            THE MAN WHO WAS ASKED TO CARRY THE CROSS OF JESUS! THE MAN WHO WAS ASKED TO HELP JESUS CARRY HIS CROSS! WHEN THE CROSS GETS TOO HEAVY! WHEN YOU NEED HELP CARRYING YOUR CROSS TO WHERE YOU’RE GOING! BROUGHT TO THE PLACE OF THE SKULL! THE BITTERNESS OF SUFFERING: VINEGAR AND GALL! THE GALL OF SUFFERING! THE VINEGAR OF DEATH! THEY SET UP OVER HIS HEAD HIS ACCUSATION: THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS! THE TWO THIEVES CRUCIFIED WITH HIM, ONE ON THE RIGHT HAND, AND ANOTHER ON THE LEFT! THEY THAT PASSED BY REVILED HIM, WAGGING THEIR HEADS! THOU DESTROYEST THE TEMPLE, AND BUILDEST IT IN THREE DAYS, SAVE THYSELF! IF THOU BE THE SON OF GOD, COME DOWN FROM THE CROSS! THE CHIEF PRIESTS MOCKING HIM, WITH THE SCRIBES AND ELDERS! HE SAVED OTHERS; HIMSELF HE CANNOT SAVE! IF HE BE THE KING OF ISRAEL, LET HIM NOW COME DOWN FROM THE CROSS, AND WE WILL BELIEVE HIM! HE TRUSTED IN GOD; LET HIM DELIVER HIM NOW, IF HE WILL HAVE HIM! HE SAID, I AM THE SON OF GOD! THE THIEVES ALSO, WHICH WERE CRUCIFIED WITH HIM, CAST THE SAME IN HIS TEETH! THREE HOURS OF DARKNESS! WHEN DARKNESS DESCENDS UPON THE PLACE OF THE SKULL! WHEN ALL HELL DESCENDS UPON THE PLACE OF THE SKULL! WHEN HELL ITSELF SURROUNDS THE SON OF GOD AND RAILS AND MOCKS HIM! MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAST THOU FORSAKEN ME? JESUS CRIED THESE WORDS AFTER THREE HOURS OF DARKNESS WHEN MAN RIDICULED AND MOCKED HIM AND WHEN EVERY UNCLEAN SPIRIT, EVERY PRINCIPALITY, AND EVERY SPIRITUAL WICKEDNESS AND RULER IN HIGH PLACES SURROUNDED JESUS AND ACCUSED AND MOCKED HIM! WHEN HE HAD CRIED AGAIN WITH A LOUD VOICE, YIELDED UP THE GHOST! THE VEIL OF THE TEMPLE WAS RENT IN TWAIN FROM THE TOP TO THE BOTTOM! THE EARTH DID QUAKE! THE ROCKS RENT! THE GRAVES WERE OPENED! MANY BODIES OF THE SAINTS WHICH SLEPT AROSE, AND CAME OUT OF THE GRAVES AFTER HIS RESURRECTION, AND APPEARED UNTO MAN! WHEN THE CENTURION, AND THEY THAT WERE WITH HIM, WATCHING JESUS, SAW THE EARTHQUAKE, AND THOSE THINGS THAT WERE DONE, THEY FEARED GREATLY, SAYING, TRULY THIS WAS THE SON OF GOD!

            When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find the progression of Jesus’ suffering continuing and moving beyond Jesus standing before Pontius Pilate where He would ultimately be sentenced to death. If and as you read the words found in this passage of Scripture you will find that Jesus would initially stand trial by night before the religious elite of that day—those who for three and a half years had plotted, schemed, and conspired together how they might destroy Jesus. What we find here within this portion of Scripture is both the timing of God and the will of God colliding within the life of the person of Jesus, for while it was always the will of the Father that Jesus should suffer in the flesh, it is here where we find the timing of God actually coming into play in direct relation to that will. For three and a half years the religious elite conspired together how they might destroy Jesus, and for three and a half years they would vehemently persecute and oppose His public ministry—both the words which He spoke and the works which He wrought. There were countless times when the chief priests, the scribes, the elders of the people, the Pharisees and the Sadducees would come unto Jesus with the sole intention of ensnaring Him in, with and by His words that they might find reason to accuse Him. What we must needs realize and understand is that the entire purpose of that accusation toward and against Jesus was simply and solely because of the fact that they sought for occasion and opportunity to destroy Jesus and put Him to death. The interesting truth surrounding this matter, however, is that although their hatred toward Jesus was palpable and tangible during those times they would not and could not act upon it because the time and hour appointed and ordained by the Father had not arrived and come to pass.

            As you read the words which are found within these passages of Scripture you will find that after Jesus stood trial before the religious elite who held a council by night that they might bring accusations against, He would ultimately and inevitably be brought before Pontius Pilate. The single and sole purpose Jesus was brought before Pontius Pilate was because the religious elite sought for Jesus to be put to death, killed, and ultimately crucified. The religious elite knew that crucifixion was not a Jewish practice, and how at that time the only nation and people who employed crucifixion as a means of putting people to death was the Romans. Having stood trial before the religious elite where they not only brought false accusation against Him, but also spit in His face, buffeted Him, and struck Him with the palms of their hands, the religious elite which were present there on that particular evening condemned Jesus to death. After hearing the testimony of all the witnesses—even though the witnesses were false and their testimonies did not agree with each other—it was ultimately determined that Jesus must needs die and be put to death. Once this condemnation was declared in the midst of the religious elite who had gathered themselves together that evening for the sole purpose of putting Jesus to death they needed only bring Jesus to Pontius Pilate. It was as Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate the accusations which were brought against Jesus would be declared unto Pilate. Perhaps what makes the accusation brought against Jesus so incredibly unique and powerful is that when you consider the charge and accusation that was brought against Him and nailed to the cross above Him, you will find that accusation as being Jesus making the emphatic statement and declaration of being the King of the Jews. This concept of the Jews having a king was actually not something which was new or foreign to the Jews, for Herod was considered as king over the Jews during those days. While it was true that the Roman Empire governed and controlled the whole earth we also understand that within the land of Judah the Roman Empire positioned Pontius Pilate as governor in the midst of the land, as well as Herod king of Judaea. This concept of the Jews having a king would not be something new or foreign to them, for they had spent a considerable amount of time under the dominion and control of Rome with both Herod as king in the midst of the land, and Pontius Pilate as governor in the city of Jerusalem.

            The more I read and consider the words which are found within this portion of Scripture the more I am brought face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that when Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate His silence awed, surprised and shocked Pilate. When Pilate asked Jesus concerning His being King of the Jews Jesus would answer not a word and would keep His peace and remain silent during much of the inquisition and trial. What’s more, is that when you find Jesus standing before that one who had been appointed by Rome as governor over the land you will find this Gentile, this sinner, and this Roman governor finding absolutely no fault within Jesus. Having heard all the arguments and accusations against Jesus Pilate had determined that there was no wrong, no guile, nor any deceit or offense within Jesus the Christ. Even more than this is the fact that we even find Pontius Pilate seeking to release Jesus back into the midst of the people rather than sentencing and condemning Him to death. Pontius Pilate found absolutely no wrong, nor any offense within the person of Jesus the Christ, and as a direct result of this he tried incredibly hard to deliver Jesus out of the hands of the mob which had gathered and assembled in the midst of Jerusalem. By the time Jesus had made it to the place where Pontius Pilate was it was the next day, and people would be awake and undoubtedly moving within and throughout the city. It was at this time when one of the major Jewish feasts—the feast of Passover—was being celebrated by the Jews, and undoubtedly there would have been a number of Jews from Galilee, Judaea and Jerusalem within the streets of this ancient city. I would even dare say and suggest that there would have been a number of Jews who had gathered themselves before Pilate when Jesus stood trial—not only before Pontius Pilate, but also before the people themselves.

            It is truly something astonishing and remarkable to read the words which are found within this portion of Scripture, for not only could Pontius Pilate find no fault in Jesus, but he also pronounced the innocence of Jesus on more than one occasion when and as He stood before him. Pontius Pilate knew that it was for envy Jesus was brought before them, and it was because of envy the Jews and the religious leaders among them sought to destroy Jesus and put Him to death. What makes this passage so incredibly astonishing and remarkable when you take the time to think about and consider it is how Pontius Pilate deliberately and intentionally sought to deliver Jesus from the hands of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of the people. Pontius Pilate had heard all their arguments, and had even questioned Jesus, and yet he could find no fault, nor could he find any wrongdoing in this man whom they described as the One who called Himself the King of the Jews. What adds even more weight and significance to this is when you think about and consider the fact that at the same time Jesus stood trial before Pontius Pilate there were at least three other thieves and murderers who were being held because of the crimes they had committed. It was the ancient Hebrew prophet Isaiah who wrote and spoke of the Messiah as being numbered among the sinners, and as He stood trial before Pontius Pilate we learn how there were three different thieves and murderers who had already been sentenced to death after having been found guilty. Two of these thieves and murderers we aren’t given their names, however, the third thief and murderer who was being held at that time did have his name mentioned in Scripture. As you read the words which are found within this passage of Scripture you will find that numbered among the other thieves and murderers was Barabbas who was found guilt of thievery, murder and inciting an insurrection during those days. This is actually quite intriguing and important when we take the time to consider it, for each year Pontius Pilate would release unto the people one who had been held as prisoner there in the city—even one who was indeed guilty of wrongdoing, crimes and offenses.

            It is necessary that we recognize and understand this, for when we look at the trial of Jesus as He stood before Pontius Pilate we find two different realities at work and at play here—namely, the innocence of Jesus being professed and proclaimed by Pontius Pilate, and the guilt of Barabbas being brought to light. Scripture holds no punches concerning Barabbas, and how Barabbas was both a thief and a murderer who for all intents and purposes deserved the punishment of death for his crimes. Barabbas was himself a thief and a murderer, and it was Barabbas who should have been hanging on the cross in between the other two thieves, and yet what we find within this passage is Barabbas being delivered from his chains and from his prison and being set free in the midst of the people. In releasing Barabbas unto the Jews once more Pontius Pilate was sentencing and condemning Jesus to death—a powerful truth and reality when you think about it. The narrative of Barabbas is actually quite remarkable when you think about it, for Barabbas was the man who went free while Jesus was condemned and sentenced to death. Barabbas was the man who was delivered from his chains, delivered from his shackles, delivered from his fetters, and delivered from the prison cell he had been in for a period of time, and it was Barabbas who would essentially go free while Jesus would take his place as one who was guilty and condemned.

            If there is one thing we must needs realize and understand concerning this narrative it’s that through Barabbas’ release we see the guilty being delivered and set free while we see the innocent being condemned and sentenced to death. It is truly worth noting and pointing out that Pontius Pilate did not sentence, nor did he condemn Jesus to death because he found any wrongdoing in Him, nor even he thought Jesus was guilty. Scripture reveals how Pontius Pilate condemned Jesus because he was fearful of the people and realized and recognized that he could not prevail against them. Pontius Pilate heard and listened to the mob that had assembled there in the city of Jerusalem and how they all called out for Jesus to be crucified and to be put to death. After going back and forth with the crowd and continuing to profess Jesus’ innocence Pilate was the one who essentially placed Jesus in the spot Barabbas was originally intended to be in. There is not a doubt in my mind that on this particular day Barabbas was preparing to die and to be crucified together and along with the other two thieves, and yet here comes Jesus of Nazareth who would stand trial before Pontius Pilate, and one whom the mob and the crowd desired would be killed and crucified. What makes the narrative of Pontius Pilate so absolutely astonishing is when you think about the fact that it was not only Pontius Pilate who professed the innocence of Jesus, and it was not only Pontius Pilate who would sentence Jesus to death, but it was also Pontius Pilate who put Jesus in the place of Barabbas who was indeed both a thief and a murderer. It was Pontius Pilate who allowed this thief and murderer to go free while sentencing and condemning Jesus to death. It was Pontius Pilate who not only allowed Barabbas to go free, but would also deliver Jesus into the hands of the Roman centurions and soldiers to scourge Jesus and ultimately put Him to death. It was Pontius Pilate who was the one who sentenced the innocent the death and allowed the guilty to go free and be delivered from the penalty of death.

            We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of just how truly incredible this passage of Scripture is, for Pontius Pilate would cause and allow that one who was guilty to be delivered and set free while that One who was innocent would be found in His place—not only numbered among the transgressors, but also crucified among the transgressors. It was Pontius Pilate who not only declared Jesus’ innocence, but also sentenced this innocent man, sentenced this just man, and sentenced this righteous man to death. It was Pontius Pilate who would allow that one who was guilty to be delivered and set free while that One who was innocent would be delivered unto the soldiers and Roman centurions in his place. This is something we must needs realize and recognize, for I can’t help but wonder what it was like for Barabbas after he was delivered and set free on that particular day. Undoubtedly Barabbas woke up that morning possibly preparing for it to be his last day upon the earth, and yet what he would find instead was being delivered from his chains, delivered from his shackles and delivered from his prison cell. Instead of being killed and crucified on this particular day Barabbas was delivered and set free and given a second chance at life. Oh there is a tremendous part of me that can’t help but wonder if Barabbas did not experience a powerful inner transformation and change within his heart after having been delivered and set free. Scripture is entirely and altogether silent concerning what life was like for Barabbas after Pilate had set him free, however, I can’t help but think about and wonder if Barabbas experienced a tremendous change and transformation as a result of grace being extended and offered unto him. Is it possible that Barabbas might very well have been numbered among the three thousand who were added to the one-hundred and twenty who were in the upper room on the Day of Pentecost? Is it possible that Barabbas who was delivered and set free because Jesus was sentenced and condemned to death would find and experience a tremendous and powerful transformation that would take place within His life, and would eventually and ultimately become a disciple and follower of Jesus the Christ?

            The more I read the words which are found in this particular passage of Scripture the more I am brought face to face with the truly awesome and powerful truth that Judas was known as the man who would betray Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. Simon called Peter would be known as the one who would deny Jesus three times before the rooster would crow in the morning. Barabbas would be known as the man who would go free because Jesus would be sentenced to death in his place. Pontius Pilate would be known as the one who would ultimately sentence and condemn Jesus to death. With this being said it is important to note that there is another person whose name we learn about within this narrative—namely, Simon who was a man from Cyrene. As you continue reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will find that after the Roman soldiers had scourged Jesus in the Great Hall, after they had platted a crown of thorns upon His brow, after they had struck Him repeatedly upon the head with a reed they would ultimately lead Jesus out to be crucified. What’s more, is that not only would Jesus be sentenced to death, and not only would Jesus be killed and crucified, but Jesus would also be forced to carry His own cross unto the place of the Skull and unto the place where He would ultimately be killed and crucified. It wasn’t simply enough for Jesus to be crucified upon the cross, for He was also made to carry His cross along the way and unto the place where He would eventually have His feet and His wrists nailed to the cross. With this being said it is absolutely necessary that we understand that with this reality and concept of Jesus being forced to carry His cross He wouldn’t do it alone and by Himself. As you read the words which are found within this passage of Scripture you will find that the Roman soldiers and centurions would force a man named Simon from Cyrene to help carry and bear the cross of Jesus. In fact, when you read the thirty-second verse of this passage of Scripture you will find it written how when those who forced Jesus to carry His cross came out they found a man of Cyrene whose name was Simon. IT would be this man named Simon whom they would compel to carry and bear the cross of Jesus unto the place where he would ultimately be killed and crucified.

            We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this, for there was another individual who was mentioned within the narrative of the death and crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ—namely, Simon from Cyrene whom they compelled and forced to bear the cross of Jesus. It would be this Simon who would be brought from the midst of the crowd that he might help shoulder the weight, the load and the burden of the cross upon the back and shoulders of Jesus. Undoubtedly the cross would have become too heavy for Jesus to carry alone and to carry by Himself, and as a direct result of this they would force and compel another man to come alongside Jesus to help Him carry that cross. I can’t help but think about how incredibly weakened the physical form and frame of Jesus would have been given the scourging He faced and experienced in the Great Hall at the hands of the Roman soldiers and centurions. I can’t help but think about how weak, fragile and frail Jesus would have ultimately been having been severely beaten and scourged, and also having the crown of thorns upon his brow. Who knows if Jesus would have been given anything real and substantial to eat and/or to drink, and it is very likely He was tired, He was weak, He was hungry, and He was thirsty. In fact we know He was thirsty, for on the cross—one of the statements Jesus made was that He thirsted. There is not a doubt in my mind that when it came to carrying the cross which would be the instrument of death upon which Jesus would be crucified He was incredibly weak and perhaps unable to carry the cross alone and by Himself. How absolutely incredible this truly is when you take the time to think about it, for when it came to carrying the cross Jesus would not carry that cross alone. There would be one who would be brought from among the crowd whom they would force and compel to help carry and bear the cross of Jesus.

            We know from Scripture that we have been called to carry our own cross, for it would be Jesus who would instruct His disciples to deny themselves, to take up their cross and to follow Him. What’s more, is that it would be Jesus who would also say that anyone who does not take up their cross and follow Him was not worthy of Him. There are at least two times within this gospel narrative alone where we find Jesus instructing and inviting His disciples and followers to carry their cross as a sign of discipleship within this life. There would be two times within the Scripture Jesus would call and invite His disciples and followers to carry their cross, and here at the time of His death and crucifixion we find Him doing the very same thing He had previously invited His disciples and followers to do. What I so absolutely love and appreciate when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture is that Jesus would not carry, nor would He bear His cross alone. Scripture makes it very clear that there would be one from among the crowd whom they would compel and force to help Jesus carry that cross. There would be one whom the Roman soldiers and centurions would bring from the midst of the crowd as they forced him to help Jesus carry His cross. In all reality this is something we must needs recognize and understand, for when we think about the reality and concept of us carrying our own cross we must understand that there might very well be times when the cross we have been called to carry and the cross we have been called to bear is too heavy for us, and because we are so weak, fragile and frail we need another to come alongside of us to help us carry that cross. Oh I can’t help but wonder what it must have been like for Simon as he helped Jesus carry that cross, and helped Jesus carry the instrument of death upon which He would be nailed and crucified. Did Jesus and Simon exchange any words and have any conversation there as they would carry the cross together unto the place of the skull? Is it possible that Jesus would attempt to speak unto Simon as he helped Him carry the cross unto Calvary and the placed known in Hebrew as Golgotha?

            I find it truly astonishing and intriguing to think about the fact that Jesus was forced and compelled to carry His cross, however, there would come a point when He was no longer able to carry the cross alone. Having undoubtedly become incredibly weak, fragile and frail because of everything His physical body and flesh had already endured Jesus would be unable to carry and bear the cross alone. In order to get the cross unto the place it was ultimately destined and intended to go there would need to be another who would need to come alongside Him to help Him carry that cross. Oh stop and think about what it must have been like for this man to have been known as the one who helped Jesus carry His cross unto the place of Golgotha. Stop and think about what it would have been like for Simon to help Jesus carry the cross and even feel the weight of the cross upon his own shoulders and back. Consider what it would have been like for Simon to help carry this instrument of death knowing what it would mean for Jesus and the other two thieves who would be killed and crucified together with Him. I can’t help but wonder what it was like for Simon to come that close to death, for in helping Jesus carry His cross he would come incredibly close to death—and not his death, but rather the death of someone else. Oh I would love to know what went through the heart and mind of Simon as he was not only forced and compelled to help Jesus bear the cross, but also as he felt the weight of the cross placed upon his own back and shoulders. What was it like for Simon to feel the weight of that cross upon his physical person and form knowing that it would be upon that cross the man next to him would die? Stop and think about what it would have been like for Simon to feel and experience the weight and burden of the cross upon his own back and shoulders knowing that what he was helping to carry was the instrument of another man’s death. What was it like for this man as the cross would be placed upon his shoulders and his back so he could help Jesus carry it unto the place of the skull?

            The thirty-second verse of this passage of Scripture brings us face to face with this man from Cyrene known only as Simon whom the Roman soldiers and centurions forced and compelled to help Jesus carry and bear the cross. In all reality this is something which we must needs recognize and pay close and careful attention to, for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely awesome and powerful truth that although Jesus would carry His cross from the Great Hall and would have to carry it along the Via Dolorosa unto the place known in the Hebrew tongue as Golgotha, He would not carry it alone. Eventually there would come a point in time when one from among the crowd which had gathered to watch as Jesus was led away to be crucified who would be compelled to help Jesus carry the cross. Scripture is entirely and altogether unclear as to what it was like for this man named Simon to help Jesus carry His cross, and I can’t help but wonder what it was like for the weight and burden of the cross to be felt upon this man’s back and shoulders. It was one thing for Jesus to carry the cross upon which He would ultimately be killed and crucified upon, however, it is something else altogether different for another to be pulled from the crowd and forced to help Jesus carry the cross. Oh I can’t help but wonder if Simon initially and originally sought and perhaps even thought to refuse their request to help Jesus carry the cross. I can’t help but wonder if Simon initially tried resisting the request of the Roman soldiers and centurions to help Jesus carry the cross and sought to simply remain in the midst of the crowd as a spectator. What is truly something to think about is when you consider the fact that Simon was essentially invited to be a participant in the narrative of the suffering and crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ. Oh it might very well have been true that Simon came from Cyrene at the time of the Passover to celebrate this feast which had been ordained and appointed by the living God in the Law of Moses, and yet he would find himself being pulled out of the crowd to help Jesus carry His cross. Although Simon might very well have initially and originally been a spectator in the narrative and drama of the crucifixion of the Son of God, he would be invited to come out from the midst of the shadows and into the light as he would help carry and shoulder the weight of the cross.

            The more I think about and the more I consider the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more I am brought face to face with what it would have been like for Simon from Cyrene to be brought from the midst of the crowd where he would have undoubtedly have watched and observed as Jesus carried His cross to the place of His crucifixion and placed in the actual narrative of this death and crucifixion. I am sure if Simon had his way and his desire he wouldn’t have been brought from the midst of the crowd to help Jesus carry His cross, and yet Simon was called and compelled to take part in and join the narrative of the suffering and death of Jesus. If there is one thing we must needs realize it’s that at this point the suffering of Jesus was still unfolding—death had not yet come, for Jesus would not yet arrive at Golgotha, and even when He arrived at that place He would hang upon the cross for six hours. Jesus carrying His own cross unto the place called Golgotha was still a part of the suffering of Jesus, for consider the tremendous cruelty that surrounded carrying the instrument of your death unto the place where you would actually be nailed and put to death. Consider the tremendous amount of suffering that would surround being forced to carry the cross which was the instrument of your death and what that would have been like to feel the weight of the instrument you would ultimately die upon on your shoulders and back. Oh it would have been one thing to have your physical form placed on the wooden beams of the cross, and it would have been one thing to have your feet and your wrists nailed to that cross, however, it is something else entirely to be forced to carry the cross—and to carry it unto the place where you would ultimately be put to death upon it.

            I sit here today thinking about and considering this truly astonishing and remarkable truth and I am brought face to face with the tremendous reality that part of the suffering and part of the torture wasn’t merely being laid on the wooden beams of the cross, nor even having your feet and wrists nailed to the cross, but having to carry that cross. Pause for a moment and think about the fact that part of the suffering wasn’t merely being killed and crucified upon the cross, but part of the suffering was feeling the weight and the burden of the cross upon which you would die. Imagine what it would have been like for Jesus to know He would ultimately be nailed to and crucified upon the cross, and yet before He would be nailed to the cross He would first have to carry the cross. Before Jesus would be laid and placed upon the cross He would first have to carry the cross and would feel the weight, the burden and the pressure of the cross upon His shoulders and upon His back. Oh there would indeed come a point in time when the cross would hold the weight of Jesus’ physical person and form, however, before that particular moment would come Jesus would have to carry the cross. For a certain period of time it would be the cross that would be the burden and weight Jesus would have to carry upon His back and His shoulders. For six hours on this particular day the cross would hold and support the weight of the physical person of Jesus, and yet before that would even take place Jesus Himself would have to carry and shoulder the weight of the cross. Undoubtedly part of the suffering wasn’t merely dying and being crucified upon the cross, but also being forced to carry the cross unto the place which in Hebrew was called Golgotha. Part of the suffering was feeling the tremendous weight and burden and pressure of the cross being upon your back and shoulders as you would carry it to the place of your death and unto the place of your crucifixion. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this incredibly powerful truth, for there is not a doubt in my mind that part of the suffering was needing and having to carry the cross and feeling the weight, the burden and pressure of the cross upon one’s shoulders and back.

            This reality of carrying the cross and feeling the weight, the pressure and burden of it upon your shoulders and back as a part of the suffering is truly something worth thinking about and considering—particularly and especially when you consider the fact that Simon was chosen from the midst of the crowd to help Jesus carry this cross. What we must needs realize and understand when thinking about and considering this is that essentially this Simon from Cyrene was invited to participate and fellowship in the actual sufferings of Jesus. Pause for a moment and thinking about the tremendous reality that carrying the cross from the Great Hall unto the place of the skull was a continuation of the suffering, for not only would you be nailed to and crucified upon the cross, but you would also be forced to carry that cross. While the time would come for the cross to support the weight of your physical person and being there would be a portion of time when you yourself would have to carry and shoulder the weight of the cross upon your physical person. Oh we must needs recognize and see this, for Simon was chosen for more than simply helping Jesus carry His cross, as he was chosen and invited to participate in the fellowship of the sufferings of Jesus. The cross which Simon would help carry wasn’t his cross to carry, nor was it his cross to bear, and yet he would be compelled to help Jesus carry that cross. OH I can’t help but see this as a wonderful and powerful invitation given unto Simon to join, to take part in, and to fellowship in the sufferings of Jesus. We rarely think about and view it through this lens, and yet what we find within the narrative of Simon from Cyrene is a man who was indeed invited to participate in the sufferings of Jesus rather than simply being a spectator on the sidelines. I am sure that had Simon not been compelled by the Roman soldiers and centurions to help carry and bear the cross he would have remained in the midst of the crowd watching safely from a distance, however, it was not ordained, nor was it appointed to be so.

            I would dare say that Simon being taken from the midst of the crowd was more than simply the Roman soldiers and centurions calling him from the midst of it that he might help Jesus carry and bear the weight and burden of the cross. I am absolutely and completely convinced that Simon’s being brought forth from the midst of the crowd would indeed be an even greater invitation given by the living God to participate in the sufferings of Jesus. In the New Testament epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Philippi we find him writing and speaking of “the fellowship of the sufferings” of Christ, and what we find here within this passage is the first individual who was invited to participate in the fellowship of those sufferings. Those who would come after the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Jesus would indeed participate in the fellowship of those sufferings as being part of the spiritual body of Christ within the earth, however, Simon from Cyrene has a unique testimony and witness as being that one who was invited to participate in the sufferings of Jesus in the midst of the earth. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of just how absolutely incredible this truly is, for it calls and draws our attention to the truly awesome reality that this man from Cyrene was taken from the midst of the crowd and from being a spectator and bystander to actually being a participant in the sufferings of Jesus. The question we must needs ask ourselves is whether or not we possess a willingness within our hearts and spirits to participate in the fellowship of the sufferings of Jesus within the earth. It’s one thing to say we will participate in the fellowship of the sufferings of Jesus, and even Simon called Peter emphatically declared in the company of all the disciples that even though all would be offended, yet would he himself never be offended. What’s more, is that Simon would also declare that he was willing to go to prison with, and even die alongside the Lord Jesus Christ. It would be Jesus Himself who would bring Simon face to face with the reality of his own flesh and frailty, for it would be Jesus who would declare unto Simon that before the rooster would crow he would deny Him three times. What’s more, is that Jesus would say unto all eleven disciples that remained how they would all be offended and would be scattered when the shepherd was Himself struck and smitten.

            It is absolutely necessary that we call and draw our attention to this particular truth, for it brings us face to face with the awesome and powerful reality that Simon from Cyrene was originally and initially a bystander and spectator to the sufferings of Christ, and yet he was brought forth from the midst of the crowd to participate in the sufferings of Christ. The fact that Simon was forced to help Jesus carry and bear His cross was and still is a powerful picture of an invitation that was given unto him to join in and participate in the sufferings of Jesus, and to truly participate in the fellowship of those sufferings. For Simon it wasn’t merely about experiencing suffering, persecution, affliction, trials and tribulation within his own life, but instead it was about his carrying the cross of Jesus Christ. For Simon it wasn’t about any suffering he himself would experience as a part of the spiritual body of Christ, but for him it would be about him coming alongside Jesus in the midst of His sufferings and helping shoulder and carry the weight and burden of those sufferings. When Simon was called and brought forth from the midst of the crowd he was called and brought forth that he might actually participate in and come alongside the sufferings of Jesus the Christ. Simon would not remain on the sidelines on this particular day and would be called to come forth from the midst of the crowd that he might join in, participate in, and come alongside Jesus in the midst of His suffering. The simply fact that Simon was called to come forth from the midst of the crowd is an incredibly powerful picture of one who was actually invited to join together in and participate in the actual physical sufferings of the Lord Jesus the Christ. What we find and what we see within the narrative of Simon is a truly awesome and powerful picture that he was one who was indeed invited by the Father to participate in the sufferings of Jesus rather than simply remain on the sidelines in the midst of the crowd.

            I have to admit that I absolutely love that which is presented before us within this portion of Scripture, for the words we find here in this passage of Scripture brings us face to face with this man who was called and brought forth from the midst of the crowd that he might be an active participant in the fellowship of the sufferings of Jesus Christ. Oh we recognize and understand that the fellowship of the sufferings of Christ for most people from the time of the early Church all the way through today is manifested in the suffering we experience and endure in this life in the flesh. For many of us we recognize and understand the fellowship of the sufferings of Christ as being manifested within and surrounding the trials, the troubles and the tribulations we face and experience within this life. For Simon, however, his participation in the fellowship of the sufferings of Christ would be all the more tangible and real. What we see within the narrative and account of Simon is one who was invited to enter into the sufferings of Christ—the physical sufferings which Christ would experience in the flesh within this world. For Simon his fellowship with the sufferings of Christ wouldn’t be something that was figurative or symbolic as we ourselves would know and experience it, but it would be something that was tangible which would take place on this particular day. I am sure when Simon woke up this morning he had absolutely no clue what he would be forced to do on that day, however, I can’t help but think about what a tremendous invitation was given to this man to join together in the sufferings of Jesus. I find myself being absolutely astonished and amazed when I think about Simon the man from Cyrene who was actually taken and chosen from the midst of the crowd to participate and fellowship in the sufferings of Jesus the Christ. By this time Jesus had already been buffeted, He had already had His face spit in, He had already had the crown of thorns upon His brow, He had already been scourged by the Romans, He had already been struck with the palms of the hands of men, He had already been struck in the head with a reed, and now here He is being forced to carry the cross—an act that would be a further continuation of the sufferings of Jesus.

            It’s something to think about when you read this particular portion of Scripture, for I have often believed that the living God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ could have easily prepared an altar upon the earth as Abraham did, bound Jesus hand and foot, placed Him upon the altar, and killed Him there upon the altar. The living God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ could have very easily sent Jesus into the earth as a man and immediately put Him to death without and apart from suffering, and yet this was not at all what God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ chose to do. God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ chose to allow His Son to not only be killed and crucified upon the cross, but also to suffer in the hours and moments leading up His death. What’s more, is the living God and Father allowed His Son to hang there upon the cross for six hours before Jesus would ultimately yield up the ghost and commit His spirit into the hands of the Father. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this, for it calls and draws our attention to the fact that God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ allowed Him to suffer. The living and eternal God allowed Jesus to have His face spit in, to have His face struck with the palms of the hands of men, allowed Him to be buffeted, allowed Him to be scourged, allowed the crown of thorns to be placed upon his brow, and even allowed Him to carry the cross unto the place where He Himself would be nailed and crucified before hanging there for six hours. This is something worth thinking about and considering, for the more we think about it the more we realize that it wasn’t merely about Jesus dying upon the cross and being crucified, for there was also the added element of His suffering in the flesh. It was and it is indeed true that Jesus was sent into the earth to be killed and crucified, however, we must needs realize and understand that directly linked and connected to that crucifixion was the suffering of Jesus. What’s more is that it almost appears that you can’t have the suffering of Jesus without the death of Jesus, and you can’t have the death of Jesus without the suffering of Jesus.

            What we find within this portion of Scripture—as well as within the other gospel narratives—is this man named Simon from Cyrene being brought from the place of being a bystander and spectator in the midst of the crowd to an active participant in the sufferings of Jesus. It’s worth noting that there was no one there who would come alongside Jesus when He would be scourged, and there was no one there when the crown of thorns would be platted upon His brow, and there would be no one there who would stand together with Jesus when He stood trial before the religious elite and before Pontius Pilate, however, when it came to carrying the cross there would be one who would be called to come alongside Jesus that he might help Him carry the cross. How incredibly interesting it is to think about and consider the fact that Jesus the Christ would be scourged alone, He would be spit upon alone, He would be buffeted alone, He would stand trial alone, He would have the crown of thorns placed upon His brow alone, however, there was something about the cross that Jesus would not experience alone. There was something about Jesus’ carrying the cross that presents a clear and powerful picture concerning the reality that there was one who was needed to come alongside Him to help carry that cross. When we think and speak about Jesus carrying the cross we must needs recognize and understand that His carrying the cross would indeed require one to come alongside Him to help Him carry the cross to where He would ultimately be killed and crucified. Oh I can’t help but find this to be something worth noting and pointing out, for it brings us face to face with the fact that Jesus would not suffer alone, and that when we think about the suffering of Jesus we recognize and understand that the suffering of Jesus would at one point require one to come alongside Him and help Him carry that cross. The cross was an extension of the sufferings which Jesus would already experience and endure, and Jesus would indeed be forced to carry that cross as a means of adding and increasing the degree and measure of the suffering He would face and experience.

            What I so love about this man named Simon from Cyrene is that he was a man who was deliberately chosen from among the crowd to come alongside Jesus and help Jesus carry that cross. Simon was taken from among the crowds—and not only was he taken from the crowds, but we understand he was from Cyrene. Pause for a moment and consider the fact that the one who came alongside Jesus to help Him carry the cross perhaps wasn’t even a Jew by heritage or birth, but was rather a Gentile. Stop and think about the fact that when we think about Jesus carrying the cross we must needs realize and understand that there were none of the Jews who came alongside Jesus to help Him carry His cross. Simon called Peter wasn’t there alongside Jesus carrying his own cross, or even helping Him carry the cross that was placed upon His shoulders. James and John weren’t on either side of Jesus helping Him carry the cross much like Aaron and Hur were on either side of Moses holding his arms up so the battle against the Amalekites could be won. The apostles Matthew, Thomas and others were not there with Jesus helping Him carry that cross, and He would initially begin carrying the cross alone. Eventually, however, there would come a point in time when they would call one from the midst of the crowd to help Jesus carry His cross unto the place where He would ultimately be killed and crucified. Oh I can’t help but be reminded of the priest who saw the man who had been beaten, stripped of his clothing and left naked on the side of the road running from Jericho to Jerusalem, and how the priest chose to walk on the other side of the road instead of stopping to help this man. Likewise there was a Levite who would travel along the same road and would actually stop and look at the man before he himself would pass by on the other side of the road. It would be a Samaritan out of all people who would be journeying on that road who would actually stop, bind up the wounds of this man, transport him to a local inn where he would be cared for and taken care of, and would cover all costs associated with his care.

            I have to admit that I absolutely love the narrative of Simon the man from Cyrene, for here we have one who was perhaps not even of Jewish descent, and yet he was the one who was compelled to help Jesus carry and bear His cross. Much like it was a Samaritan who came to the aid and rescue of the man who had fallen among thieves on the side of the road leading from Jericho to Jerusalem, so also would this man from Cyrene come to the aid of Jesus in the process of carrying His cross. We dare not overlook and cannot overstate the significance of this act, for that which we find here is a powerful picture of one who actually took part in and participated in the fellowship of the sufferings of Christ. For Simon of Cyrene it wouldn’t be the suffering he himself would face and experience within this life, but he would actually be invited to participate and come alongside the physical sufferings which Jesus Himself would experience. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this and how absolutely incredible this truly is, for this man from Cyrene would actually feel the weight of the very cross Jesus would die and be crucified upon. This man from Cyrene would actually help carry the instrument that would be used to put Jesus to death and crucify Him in the flesh here upon the earth. This man named Simon would indeed and would in fact feel the same weight of the cross which Jesus carried upon His back and shoulders, and would experience the weight, the pressure and the burden of that cross upon his back and shoulders all the way unto the place in Hebrew called Golgotha. How absolutely and incredible it is to think about and consider the fact that this man was the one man in all of history who was actually invited and compelled to participate in the actual sufferings of Jesus. This man named Simon was the only one in all of history who actually felt the wood of the cross upon which Jesus would die, and would feel the weight, the burden and pressure of the cross upon his own shoulders and back. Simon from Cyrene would be the only man in history who would actually come alongside Jesus in the midst of His sufferings and would actually participate and fellowship together with Him in the midst of them. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this, for there is a profound invitation that is found within this passage and surrounding Simon from Cyrene.

            I previously wrote the words declaring that we are Barabbas and that we can and should see ourselves in Barabbas, for we who have sinned, we who have fallen short of the glory of God, we who ourselves were bound and captive by sin have been delivered and set free while Jesus was sentenced and condemned in our place. I have previously written how we can and should see ourselves in the narrative of Barabbas, for Barabbas was one who was guilty and yet permitted to go free because Jesus who was innocent was sentenced and condemned to death. It is necessary that we recognize and understand this particular narrative, for as much as we can and must see ourselves in the narrative of Barabbas, so also we must see ourselves in the narrative of Simon from Cyrene. We must needs see ourselves in the narrative of Simon as those who have been called and those who have been invited to step and enter into the place where we partake in the fellowship of the sufferings of Christ. Although we will not experience the same level of participation in the fellowship of the sufferings of Christ we must needs realize and understand that we have been those who have been called to step and enter into the sufferings of Christ as those who are a part of His spiritual body here upon the earth. This was the reason why the apostles rejoiced after they were imprisoned and were even beaten by the Sanhedrin in the New Testament book of Acts, for they counted it a privilege and a blessing to be counted worthy to suffer with and for the Lord Jesus Christ. Though none of them would indeed be like Simon from Cyrene who would help Jesus carry the cross which was placed upon His back and shoulders they would—as the spiritual body of Christ in the midst of the earth—participate in the fellowship of the sufferings which they themselves would face and experience in the earth.

            As I prepare to bring this writing to a close we must needs recognize and understand the awesome responsibility that was placed upon the shoulders of Simon—literally placed upon His shoulders—for Simon would have the very instrument of the death of Christ placed upon His back and shoulders. The very instrument which Jesus would be nailed to and would hang upon for a period of six hours would be placed upon the shoulders and back of Simon from Cyrene, and he would carry that cross for a certain period of time before both he and Jesus would reach Golgotha. I cannot escape the tremendous and awesome reality surrounding this particular one who was called and invited to step forth from the midst of the crowd and participate in the suffering of the Lord Jesus Christ. This particular man was invited to come out of the crowd and compelled to carry the cross of Jesus Christ, and although it was the Roman soldiers and centurions who would ultimately compel him to do so—he would be invited into the place of participation in the sufferings of Jesus. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of how absolutely astonishing this truly is, for there is something truly unique about not only helping Jesus carry His cross, and not only participating in the sufferings of Jesus, but to also feel the very wood of the cross Jesus would be nailed to and hung from. We know that Jesus carried His cross along the Via Dolorosa, however, we oftentimes forget that Jesus didn’t carry His cross alone. There was one who was brought forth from the midst of the crowd who would actually take part in the sufferings of Jesus, and that one who would be the only one in history to actually physically partake in the actual sufferings of Jesus. We know that there were two thieves who were nailed to their own individuals crosses alongside Jesus, however, we cannot state that either of them actually participated in the sufferings of Jesus—at least not in the sense of what Simon from Cyrene experienced. We know that the two thieves which were hung on crosses at the same time as Jesus were indeed experiencing a measure of the agony and anguish He felt upon the cross, however, it was Simon who actually felt the wood of the cross upon his back and his shoulders. It was Simon from Cyrene who actually experienced the weight, the pressure and the burden of the cross upon his shoulders.

            I see in the narrative of Simon from Cyrene a powerful picture of an invitation that is given unto us as the disciples and followers of Jesus Christ to be those who are able to participate in the fellowship of the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Oh it is true that none of us can and will experience carrying the cross upon which Jesus would Himself die upon, however, it is true that we have each been called to participate in the fellowship of the sufferings of Jesus the Christ. We have been called and chosen by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ to be those who will participate and partake in the sufferings of Jesus the Christ in the flesh as each and every one of us have been called to carry our own cross. IT was the apostle Paul who wrote unto the saints which were at Philippi and spoke of knowing Christ, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings. These words which were written and spoken by the apostle Paul must indeed be our creed and our manifesto, for we have been called to partake in the fellowship of the sufferings of Jesus the Christ. Simon from Cyrene would be compelled to help Jesus carry His cross, and it would be Simon Himself who would actually walk with Jesus in the midst of that suffering. Pause for a moment and think about what it would have been like to be the only person in history to actually walk with Christ in the midst of and during His sufferings. What a tremendous honor, what a tremendous privilege, what a tremendous blessing, but also what a tremendous responsibility is found in being that one who walked with Jesus in the midst of His suffering. What a tremendous blessing and honor it was for Simon to be able to walk with Jesus in the midst of His suffering and to help Him carry the cross unto the place where He would ultimately die and be crucified. Oh how absolutely remarkable this truly is when we take the time to think about it, for there is something unique and powerful about being those who are willing to participate in the sufferings of Christ, and to participate in the fellowship of His sufferings.

I would like to conclude this particular writing knowing that there is more that is found within this passage than simply Simon being called to carry the cross upon which Jesus died upon. There is something deeply profound about Simon being compelled to help Jesus carry His cross, for although Simon might not have been given a choice in helping Jesus carry the cross He carried—you and I have been. If we are truly disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ we have been called to be those who will deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him. If we are truly disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ we have been called to be those who present our bodies as living sacrifices, and have been called to be those who are willing to commit our lives to participating and fellowshipping with the suffering of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is a profound invitation that is found within this passage—namely, an invitation we have been given to participate in the fellowship of the sufferings of Christ. WE have been given a wonderful and powerful choice to be those who are ready, willing and able to participate in the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ, and to be those who are willing to yield our bodies unto suffering, unto tribulation, unto trials, unto persecution, unto afflictions, and the like. It was the apostle Paul who would write how he would boast in his afflictions and his infirmities, for when he was weak then Jesus would indeed be strong within and through Him. Oh that we would read this particular passage and would encounter and come face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that we have been invited to be those who participate in the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that we have been given a full invitation to join in the fellowship of those sufferings. The question we must ask ourselves is whether we will be those who will leave Jesus to suffer alone, or whether we will be those who will suffer together with Him. Will we leave Jesus to suffer alone, and will we leave Jesus to experience affliction and opposition alone, or will be those who are ready, willing and able to suffer with Him and for Him? Will we be those who are ready, willing and able to participate in the fellowship of the sufferings of Jesus the Christ, and be those who will indeed and will in fact walk in and fellowship with those sufferings as we commit ourselves to being true disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s