My Favourite Stories #56

God does not look at the deeds of our lives but the motives from which they are born.  John’s Gospel relates how Jesus left Pilates Judgment Hall bearing his own cross. Simon had been commandeered not long afterward. He was unaware that this man had been sorely tried through this night of excitement that included seven trials between Gethsemane, Herod, the High Priest, and Pilot where he was finally scourged. Since the night before he had taken neither food nor drink. His humanity became too much to sustain the weight of the cross and they had laid the burden on Simon, who had been ‘pressed’ into service. They then passed on to the place of execution.

This was not just a human death. Jesus was also carrying the mysterious burden of the world’s sin that had also been laid upon him. As we look upon this suffering, we also look upon something the significance of which does not lie on the surface. Jesus extreme pressure was accounted for by that solemn truth of prophecy, “The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all”.

There are many in this day who scoff at Him, mock Him, deny His claims, seek to cast him down, and rebel against His kingdom. It is easy to be a disciple when the crowd is crying “Hosanna.” It is much harder to be a disciple when the crowd (the influential cultivated opinion of a generation) are crying “Crucify Him! Crucify Him” 

“In the world but not of the world”… they don’t know who this is! But we do! The soldiers with their whips and swords are trying to control everything. Trying to keep the procession moving. The priests, rulers, and mob are hurling insults and mockery. In the midst of this, one soldier turns toward Jesus  with a lingering glance,  later at the cross, amidst the darkness, the earthquake, and the lightning, he would be heard to say, “Truly this man is the Son of God” (Matt 27:54)

The mob are made up largely of those who join the triumphal precession. One day they are crying Hosannah to the king. A few days later, “crucify Him!” Some in he crowd had been healed by Jesus and they jostled screaming “NO, NO!”

The trial had been illegal. The scene in Pilates judgment hall probably took place about 7am. Most of Jerusalem was just stirring and would have been unaware of the events now taking place. The courtyard had been stacked with detractors. They reached Golgotha and according to prophetic timing Jesus was crucified at 9am most supporters of Jesus and other believers – those who had been healed were not there. I imagine Simon laying down the cross and watching as the soldiers performed their task.

As Simon carried Jesus’ cross nine disciples followed behind. Why didn’t one of them step forward at this crucial moment and offer to the carry cross? (3 were missing; 1 was dead, another was face down in the garden of Gethsemane with a breaking heart because he had  denied his best friend, the third would show up in a little while with Jesus’ mother.)

Nine were holding back, filled with grief (as we should be as we behold the scene) – they were bowed down with disappointed hopes and kept their distance. They were filled with sorrow over the pain of their master. Yet they stay away, they had given into fear and the shame of association. Not one was willing to offer Him assistance.

We are to be Christians, Christ’s companions, when His back is at the wall as much as when people are exalting him. Our business is confessing Him when men deny Him, to stand by Him when men forsake Him, avow Him when avowal will bring contempt upon us and thus, we bear His cross. We must ally ourselves with the suffering, despised Christ, if we are to be His disciples. Christ’s cross must be carried today! Amidst the hostility, the alienation, the denial, we must share the contempt from the wise and cultivated generation of our day. (This modern mob still cry crucify Him). Do not be ashamed of him in amidst a crooked and perverse generation.

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