Summary: Christ is sentenced to be crucified. He was forced to carry the heavy cross, but as the procession neared the gate, He succumbed to exhaustion and fell to the ground, unable to go any further. The cross is then forced upon one Simon of Cyrene.
HARMONY OF THE GOSPELS
(35) Led to Golgotha
Christ is sentenced to be crucified. He was forced to carry the heavy cross, but as the procession neared the gate, He succumbed to exhaustion and fell to the ground, unable to go any further. The cross is then forced upon one Simon of Cyrene. The Lord addressed the women mourners who followed Him, saying they should cry for themselves, not Him. He was crucified at Calvary.
Date: Friday of Jesus’ final week
(Matthew 27:31) 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.
(Mark 15:20) And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple from him, and put his own clothes on him, and led him out to crucify him.
(John 19:16) Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus and led him away.
Finally, they put His own clothes back on Him, and led Him away to be crucified; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, as a sacrifice to the altar. We can imagine how they hurried him along, dragging Him through the streets packed with the curious and those who wanted Him dead. They probably hurled taunts and cursed Him and whipped Him. They led him away out of the city. Paul said He suffered without the gate—“Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate” (Heb. 13:12), and in the parable Jesus speaks of Him being cast out of the vineyard—“And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him” (Matthew 21:39).
(Luke 23:26) And as they led him away, they laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him, they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus.
(Matthew 27:32) And as they came out, they found a man of 2Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross.
(Mark 15:21) And they compel one Simon a 2Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross.
It was now early in the morning on Friday, the day that Jesus died. It seems at first He carried the cross unaided like Isaac carried the wood for the burnt-offering. This was intended, like other things, to cause Him both pain and shame. As was customary and according to the Law the execution was carried out outside the city (Hebrews 13:12-13). People are divided over the question, “Did He carry the entire cross or was it the crossbeam alone?” We are not told, but we know that initially, He carried it by Himself. Shear exhaustion made it impossible for Him to carry it very far. Consider what He had already endured during the past fifteen hours; the tense atmosphere of the upper room, the betrayal of Judas, the agonies of Gethsemane, the desertion by His disciples, the torture of a totally hypocritical trial before the Sanhedrin, the mockery in the palace of Caiaphas, the denial by His most prominent disciple, the trial before an unjust judge, the pronunciation of the death sentence upon Him, the terrible ordeal of being scourged, and the abuse by the soldiers in the praetorian! Humanly speaking it was a wonder that He was able to carry it at all.
The soldiers feared that He might die under the load of His cross, which would prevent them from torturing Him further; so they exercised their right of requisitioning or “making demands on” people and compelled a man called Simon of Cyrene to carry His cross for Him. He was just passing by; he did not know what was happening and did not hold an opinion on the matter. Not much is known of this man, but he had two sons, Alexander and Rufus, who were probably believers and became well-known Christians (if Rufus is the same one mentioned in Romans 16:13). He may have been black but was more probably a Hellenistic Jew. As a Jew he probably was in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover feast and to worship at the Temple; there was even a Cyrenian synagogue in Jerusalem ( Acts 6:9).
The cross was a very strenuous and cumbersome load: but the man, who carried it for a few minutes, had the honor of having his name recorded in the book of God. He began the day as an obscure person; but after this, wherever this gospel is preached, this story will be told for a memorial to him. And today, in like manner, when we are afflicted and yet bear our cross joyfully it yields for us a crown of glory.