Then they led him out to crucify him.
A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means ‘the place of the skull’). Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.
It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. The written notice of the charge against him read: THE KING OF THE JEWS.
They crucified two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left.
Mark 15: 20b-27
Jesus carried his cross, at least for a while, and with it he carried all the sin of the world – all its grubby deceit and downright wickedness. He took it all on his shoulders and dragged it to be dealt with forever.
Isaiah said, generations before:
He was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
When I first heard that passage, I assumed that it was from the New Testament. I could not believe how such an accurate description of what happened to Jesus could have been written long before. I marvelled at the God who knows our hearts well enough to know what would happen to him. And more than that, I marvelled that God, knowing his creation so well would send his Son amongst such people and sacrifice him for them.
How could he love us that much?
But the cross is not just a sort of heavenly Valentine that says: ‘I love you, please be mine.’ it’s also a challenge. Because Jesus said that whoever wants to follow him must pick up their cross – and be prepared to suffer for the Kingdom of God.
We are not like Simon – compelled to carry a cross. We are invited to become part of the movement that is prepared to go to any lengths to serve God and offer his love and challenge to others.
It’s hard to think of Jesus dragging himself (or being dragged) up that hill to his death. We would perhaps prefer to look the other way until Easter Sunday and celebrate the resurrection.
But we cannot have the resurrection without the crucifixion. And we can’t have the joy of relationship with God without accepting the responsibility of bringing others to him, too.