Did Jesus carry His Own Cross? Many pictures and stories seem to indicate He did.
So I was surprised to discover that only one of the four gospels actually says He did. That was John.
The other three detail the important role of a man named Simon of Cyrene.
Simon was pressed into service to carry Jesus’ cross right after Jesus was condemned.
So Pilate decided to grant their demand. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.
As the soldiers 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.
Many theologians have puzzled over why Simon would have been told to carry Jesus’ Cross. Their speculations are interesting.
One notes Jesus may have been beaten so badly they were concerned He might die on the way to the crucifixion site. They did not want that. They wanted the people to get the satisfaction of seeing Him crucified.
We may never know if Jesus carried His Cross at all, or if so, how far. But it is important to try to understand the real life parable that was played out the day Jesus was crucified.
Jesus had said earlier, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”
Perhaps Simon is a part of the story to give us a picture of ourselves, very human people, weighed down by the sins and troubles of this world, but still following Jesus into an unknown future.
We don’t know what Simon thought. We don’t even know if he knew Jesus. But I suspect he may have had the same thought we do when burdened with a heavy load.
We do know he was following behind Jesus.
Perhaps when they reached Golgotha, and the cross was lifted from Simon’s shoulders, he would have had a chance to ask Jesus, “Why me, Lord?”
And Jesus might have said, “In this world you will have troubles, but I still want you to follow Me. This is not the end for you or Me. It’s a new beginning.”
And then Simon might have said, “Why You, Lord?”
Jesus answered, “For you, Simon. So you won’t ever have to carry that cross again.”
The gospel writers do not tell us what happened. But I like to imagine what happened next.
As the cross was lifted from Simon and transferred to Jesus, Simon felt as the weight of the world had been lifted off his shoulders.
The soldiers told him he was free to go. But Simon didn’t go. He stayed through it all. He stayed and heard every word Jesus said.
He stayed long after everyone had left. He clung to the foot of the cross, trying to make sense out of what had been the strangest day in his life.
He heard the soldiers coming to take the bodies down. He felt the urge to cry out, “No, don’t take Him.”
It was then Simon felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned around and saw Jesus standing there. He said, “Let’s go, Simon. Follow Me. We’ve got work to do.”
So it was that Simon left unnoticed, following One only seen to him. This time it was Simon’s choice. He took the first steps on a road that would ultimately lead him Home.
Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, The Pioneer and Perfecter of Faith.
For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of The Throne of God.
“Come, follow Me,” Jesus said.