“Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers. 28 And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe. 29 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! 30 And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head. 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. 32 And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross. 33 And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull, 34 They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink. 35 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. 36 And sitting down they watched him there; 37 And set up over his head his accusation written, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS. 38 Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left. 39 And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, 40 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. 41 Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, 42 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. 43 He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God. 44 The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth. 45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? 47 Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias. 48 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. 49 The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him. 50 Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.” (Matt. 27:27-50)
Simon was tired from the journey. His travels had begun ten miles from the Mediterranean Sea, in that part of the world which is now called Libya. Now he was in Jerusalem. Simon and his family had come to Jerusalem to be part of the extravagant Jewish celebration of Passover. His two sons, Alexander, and Rufus, were excited to be part of this great religious adventure (Mark 15:21). With thousands of others, they would offer a lamb as a sin offering.
What Simon had not expected, was that he would literally see the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world. What Simon did not know, when he began his trip towards the Holy City, was that his life would be touched by the Son of God. The encounter with Christ was not of his own choosing, for Simon was merely a spectator of the sensational events unfolding before his eyes.
As Simon came inside the gates of the city of Jerusalem, his attention was immediately drawn to the excitement of the moment. Something unusual was happening, and he soon discovered what was happening. A man from Galilee was being put to death, along with two robbers. What was His crime? He claimed to be the promised Messiah!
With that understanding, Simon joined the massive movement of humanity that lined the Via Dolorosa (The Way of Sorrow), leading to the city gates, for he knew that the prisoners of Rome had to pass by on their way to Calvary.
As Simon strained his eyes to get a glimpse of the professed Prophet, he saw Jesus coming. When Simon first saw Jesus, he was compelled to turn his head away in horror. The figure inching His way, in the dusty streets, under the weight of a wooden cross, did not even look like a man. It was obvious that Jesus had been brutally beaten. He had been scourged, according to the orders of Pontius Pilate.
The instrument of a Roman scourge consisted of a short wooden handle, to which several throngs were attached, the ends studded with pieces of lead, or brass, and bits of sharp bones. The victim’s back was bare, and bent, while two men alternated, flinging lashes from either side, which would rip the flesh open. The quivering flesh would often be lacerated to such an extent that deep seated veins, and arteries, and inner organs, were exposed. People often died from the scourging alone.
The first sight Simon had of Jesus, was a suffering Saviour, covered with horrible bruises, and lacerations, and welts. Simon did not know yet just how much Christ suffered beyond the beating, for there was tremendous humiliation that was endured at the hands of over 600 men. The whole band of Roman soldiers were allowed to give vent to their sadistic urges, sick humor, and wicked imaginations.
Acquainted with the Jewish ways, the soldiers of Rome knew that they had in their hands a Man whom many called a King. Therefore, they would treat Him as a King, they said. So they disrobed Christ, and beat Him, and then placed on His bleeding shoulders a royal robe (Matt. 27:28-30; Mark 15:17; John 19:2). While the purple robe draped His shoulders, a crown of thorns were thrust upon the Lord’s holy brow, for a King needs a crown. Rivulets of blood ran down Christ’s face, for the thorns pierced the skin of His scalp.
Another soldier suddenly thrust a sturdy reed into the helpless hands of Jesus, for a King needs not only a robe, and a crown, but also a scepter. And then some of the soldiers kneeled before the Lord in mock honor, saying, “Hail! King of the Jews!”
Rising from their knees, the soldiers spit into the face of Jesus, and then, drunk with blood, they began to punch, and slap the Son of God. And so it was that Jesus merged from this hideous torture, to be crucified.
As Simon watched Jesus stagger, and then fall under the weight of the Cross, his heart was moved to help. A sharp-sighted soldier, who had been watching the crowd, caught the expression of compassion on the face of this man from Cyrene, and immediately compelled him to help bear the Cross. In this way, Simon came to Calvary with Christ. Once there, Simon stayed to see end. What he witnessed caused the holy angels to weep, as they beheld their Sovereign exhausted, bloodied, and beaten.
In the past fifteen hours, Jesus had already endured suffering beyond belief. Christ had already experienced the tension in the Upper Room, the betrayal by Judas, the agonies of Gethsemane, and the desertion of the disciples.
The Lord had already known the mental anguish of a hypocritical trial at the hands of the Sanhedrin, the mockery of Caiaphas, the denial of Peter, the contempt of Herod Antipas, and the ordeal of scourging by Pilate.
Now at Calvary, He must endure the ordeal of crucifixion. Battle hardened soldiers took the precious hands of Christ and stretched them out. Then, with no hesitation, iron spikes were driven through them, pining the flesh to the wood. Finally, a nail was pounded through the Lord’s holy feet, after which the cross was picked up, and dropped into a hole, with a bone crushing jar. We are sometimes told that we should not dwell on the physical aspect of the Cross; but we cannot possibly have too vivid a picture of what Jesus did suffer for us.
Klausner, the Jewish writer, says, “Crucifixion is the most terrible and cruel death which man has ever devised for taking vengeance on his fellow-man” Cicero called it, “the most cruel and the most horrible torture.” Tacitus called it, “a torture only fit for slaves.”
The concept of crucifixion originated in Persia; and its origin came from the fact, that the earth the criminal was lifted up from, so that he might not defile the earth, which was the god’s property. From Persia, crucifixion passed to Carthage, in North Africa; and it was from Carthage, that Rome learned it, although the Romans kept it exclusively for rebels, runaway slaves, and the lowest type of criminal, it was indeed a punishment which was illegal to inflict on a Roman citizen.
The criminal was fastened to his cross, already a bleeding mass from the scourging. There he hung to die of hunger, and thirst, and exposure, unable even to defend himself from the torture of the gnats, and flies, which settled on his naked body, and on his bleeding wounds. It is not a pretty picture, but that is what Jesus Christ suffered—willingly—for us (William Barclay).
The screams of those crucified, did not move the hearts of stone of the soldiers of Rome. These men had seen too much death, and dying, to be sensitive to the cries of the condemned. What did it matter that the madness of men had found a way to inflict incredible wounds on others? The soldiers were just doing their job. They were just following orders.
Placed on the Cross at 9:00 AM, the great Sacrifice for the souls of the elect began, for Jesus was there as a substitute for sinners. While His ordeal continued, the citizens of Jerusalem began to pass by. Some of them spoke
“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.”
But Jesus would not come down from the Cross. The people who passed by, did not understand. They thought that Jesus could not, because of His weakness. They did not know, that it was His great strength of love, that kept Christ on the Cross.
Had Jesus come down from the Cross, the mouth of hell would have opened wide, to receive all the souls, in all the world, for there would be no basis for salvation.
Had Jesus come down from the Cross, a shriek of terror would have torn through heaven, for all the Old Testament saints would have to leave, no longer having a Sacrifice for their sins.
Had Jesus come down from the Cross, the power, and prestige of Satan would have been enhanced, for the Wicked One would have been triumphant over the Son of God.
Had Jesus come down from the Cross, the world’s religious vocabulary would have to be revived. There would be no divine meaning to words, such as Atonement, Redemption, Substitution, or Sacrifice.
Had Jesus come down from the Cross, there would be no hope of a resurrection, no change in regeneration, and no promise of a restoration.
No, Jesus would not come down from the Cross. He was looking beyond the grave, for the joy on the other side.
Let the soldiers be cruel, let the people sneer, let the religious leaders turn up their noses,
Jesus would accomplish the great work of redemption! Jesus would not come down!
Jesus stayed at Calvary, to invite the world to come to Him.
And the world has come, for good, and for bad.
Simon came to Calvary, and was converted. The soldiers came to Calvary, and remained cruel. The religious leaders came to Calvary, and were confirmed in their sins.
The citizens of Jerusalem came to Calvary, only to go away, still misunderstanding what they were witnessing.
What is our reaction, when we come to Calvary?
As we examine our hearts, are they changed, or made more callous?
Are we bored with the great Sacrifice, or do we want to love Christ more, realizing that we are saved by His blood?
The Accuser of Man, once reminded Martin Luther of his many transgressions, and tabulated them.
“Is that all?” asked Luther.
“No, there are many more,” sneered Satan, who added other sins to the list.
“Is that all?”
“Yes, and now what?”
“Now,” said the rugged Reformer, “write beneath them all, ‘The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin.'”
The blood of Christ is precious.
The blood of Christ is priceless.
The blood of Christ is droplets of red rubies.
The blood of Christ, God’s Son, covers our sins, as we come to the Cross, in faith, and with thanksgiving.
In as far as it is the testimony of our hearts, let us say, with the hymn writer of old, “My Jesus I Love Thee”