And as they led him away, they laid hold on one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him they laid the cross…
Delivered unto the will of the Jews by the indecision of Pilate, Jesus accepts the cross, and proceeds under its crushing weight towards Calvary. But seeing him fainting under it, they press Simon the Cyrenian into service, and he has the everlasting honor of carrying the end of the beam after Jesus. Thus is it in all life's burdens - the weighty end of them is carried by the sympathetic Master, while the lighter end he allows his people to carry after him. And here we must notice -
I. HIS CONSIDERATION FOR JERUSALEM'S WEEPING DAUGHTERS. (Vers. 27-31.) The victim of 'Rome's cruelty, he has enlisted the sympathy of many weeping women. They see in his death the departure of their best earthly Friend. It is the moment of their deepest sorrow. But Jesus tells them to reserve their tears for themselves. This death of his will lead inevitably to the destruction of Jerusalem and to the dire calamities of the nation. These will be much more lamentable than any sorrows through which he is now to pass. Why, then, does he call upon them to weep? Manifestly that their timely repentance may ensure their escaping the troubles which are so surely coming upon the earth. But the self-forgetful attitude of Jesus is surely most instructive. He thinks not of himself, but of their hard case, even though on his journey to the cross. It is the most perfect consideration for others' welfare, and the most beautiful forgetfulness of one's own, that he here exhibits.
II. HE WAS NUMBERED WITH THE TRANSGRESSORS. (Vers. 32, 33.) There was something peculiarly contemptuous in the arrangement of Jesus between two notable criminals. They were robbers - perhaps had been associates of Barabbas. They had committed, most probably, murder in the insurrection, so that the cross was the rightful end of such careers. But to number Jesus, the innocent, with them, to make him one with the greatest criminals then available, was diabolical! And yet he does not protest. Nay, he is willing to be thus identified that he may save even one of his associates. And yet, is not this arrangement, which numbered him with the transgressors, simply the outward expression of the great fact which is the foundation of our salvation? ]f Jesus had not voluntarily taken up the position of substitute, and identified himself with sinners, we should never have been redeemed.
III. INTERCESSION FROM THE CROSS. (Ver. 34.) It was ignorance on the part of many which led to this great crime, but culpable ignorance. They should have known better. They needed forgiveness for it. They are the subjects of his intercession. He prays. "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." There never had been such a forgiving spirit manifested since the world began. No wonder that the dying scenes took on ever after a new halo, and that martyrs were able, in spite of suffering, to forgive their murderers and intercede for their salvation! It was the glory of patience which was manifested upon the cross.
IV. THE CHARGE OF SELF-NEGLECT. (Vers. 35-38.) As they walk round the cross in their selfishness, the Jews charge Jesus with self-neglect. He had saved others, but now he does not try to save himself. If he would only show that he can take care of "number one," they would believe on him. Assuredly we have here the self-revelation of the world. The world believes in the selfish, self-seeking leaders of men. A Napoleon or Caesar, who is willing to sacrifice millions of men to gratify his ambition, is believed in - at all events for a time! But Jesus, who sacrifices himself, is derided. Yet in the end the kingship of the self-sacrificing Savior is acknowledged. The true King of the Jews is he who could lay down his life for his subjects, and so redeem them.
V. THE FIRST RECOGNIZER OF CHRIST'S KINGSHIP. (Vers. 39-43.) One in the vast assemblage, however, sees below the surface, and recognizes the sovereignty of self sacrifice. At first reviling Christ, he had come to see, beneath the meek exterior of the Savior, the real regal spirit. Hence he changes sides, begins to rebuke the other malefactor who continues his unholy maledictions, and then quietly implores the Lord to remember him when he comes in his kingdom. The poor robber, who had perhaps fought under some false Messiah, and knew what Jewish hopes were, believes that this meek and suffering One upon the cross beside him will yet come to his kingdom. When that advent is to be he knows not. But even in the far-off time it will be well for him to be remembered by him. Thus he prays, and is answered. But "To. day shalt thou be with me in Paradise," is the blessed hope set before him. Paradise is part of his kingdom, and the dying robber will be with Jesus in its peaceful bowers that very day. What a hope to be opened up to the dying man! What comfort it gave him, and should give to us!
VI. THE CONSUMMATION. (Vers. 44-46.) After these preliminaries are settled, the dealing of Jesus with the Father himself comes on. It was meet that a veil of darkness should surround the suffering Son and the righteous Father. The Priest and the Victim, who offered himself without spot to God, should in deep darkness pass through the act of unexampled worship. No wonder also that the veil of the temple was rent in the midst; for it was exactly this which his death secured - a way into the holiest through the rent veil of his flesh. And then, when the cry of desolation, that loud and bitter cry, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" had given place to quiet assurance, and amid returning light the last cry from the cross went up to heaven, "Father, into thy hands! commend my spirit!" it was meet that he should quietly surrender his life and give up the ghost. There is much to encourage and strengthen us in this consummation on the cross. - R.M.E.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.