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III. We come now to consider what happened to the Lord Jesus by the way to his crucifixion. In general, the treatment he met with was very different from that which he had experienced six days before, at his public entrance into Jerusalem. He then entered the city amidst the joyful acclamations and applauding Hosanna's of the people. Then the popular cry was, “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord. On the contrary, curses, insults, mockeries, and bitter sarcasms, now pursued the blessed Jesus as he went forth to Golgotha. For when Christ, or his members, are to suffer, every one insults, reviles, and speaks evil of them. Probably, many indignities were offered our blessed Lord by the way, which are passed over in silence by the Evangelists. However, they make mention of two particular incidents, which happened while our Saviour walked to the place of execution; and these are, First, That he was eased of the weight of his cross, and Secondly, That he was publicly lamented by the compassionate women of Jerusalem.
First, Jesus meets with some ease from the heavy load, with which he was oppressed; the cross, which he dragged along with so much difficulty, being taken from him, and laid on another. The enemies of our blessed Lord little intended, indeed, to shew him any kindness by taking the cross from him : On the contrary, their intention was, 1. To hurry on the faster to Mount Golgotha; for as Jesus, by reason of his weakness and fatigue, moved very slowly, the Jews were out of patience till the sentence of death was finally executed on him. 2. To reserve our blessed Lord for acuter pangs and greater tortures ; for they were apprehensive that he might faint by the way, and die under their hands; which would not have been near so satisfactory to them as to see him, nailed to and bleeding on the cross. Therefore perceiving that his strength was exhausted by watchings, hunger, fatigue, and loss of blood, they tçok the burden
from Jesus, that he 'might not sink under it. But the Heavenly Father so directed this circumstance, as to procure some alleviation to his Son thus harrassed, and sinking under the weight of his miseries.
Our blessed Saviour had himself carried the cross from the hall of judgment to the city gate; but when they came without the gate, the soldiers seeing that Jesus was by no means able to drag his cumbersome load up the hill
, they looked out for a proper person to carry it to the destined place, with the desired expedition.
By the particular direction of God, there happened to pass by a man called Simon, a native of Cy. rene, a city of Libia, which, though it was above a thousand miles distant from Jerusalem, was full of Jews who had also a synagogue there. This man, possibly, might be possessed of some farm without the city, and was coming from it to Jerusalem, in order to perform his devotions in the temple. This Şimon was, in all appearance, a secret disciple of the Lord Jesus; and seeing him sink under the load of the cross, and dragging it along with great difficulty, he either by words or gesture expressed some compassion for him. This was a sufficient provocation to the insolent soldiers to lay hold of Simon, and to fasten the cross on his back. Thus he was compel: led to follow the Lord Jesus, and to carry the cross after him, perhaps by the way of ridicule, as he was supposed to be one of Christ's disciples. Had he been an unrelenting Jew, and an enemy to Christ and his doctrine, he would have thrown down the cross at their feet. He would have railed against Jesus, and excused himself from performing this ignominious office; nay, the chief Priests would have interceded for him, to have him set at liberty, and intreated the soldiers not to make a laughing stock of one of their fellow-citizens. But as he was probably a disciple of Christ, he patiently submitted to be mocked and ridiculed with his Lord and Saviour. At first, in
deed, he was a little discomposed, and thought it a great hardship to be treated so scandalously ; but, on perceiving the uncommon patience and mildness of the blessed Jesus, who was hurried on before him by the rude multitude, he learned of Christ to possess his soul in patience, and quietly submitted to let them do what they pleased with him. This Simon of Cyrene here seems, as it were, to supply the place of Simon Peter, who had made sanguine promise that he would follow his master, and go with him to death; (John xiii. 37.) but, instead of making good his words, had betaken himself to flight along with the other disciples. Therefore the wise providence of God seems to have provided another Simon to bear Christ company, when he was going to suffer death.
The second particular incident, which happened while our blessed Saviour walked to the place of execution, was a public testimony of pity and compassion. A
great company of women, some of whom were inhabitants of Jerusalem, others had followed Jesus from Gililee, accompanied him bewailing and lamenting him (Luke xxiii. 27. 49.) Probably, in some of them this was only the effect of a humane, sympathetic feeling, which generally excites a. natural compassion to malefactors when they are carried to execution, as they are partakers of one common nature
In others this natural tenderness might be mixed with self-love ; fur they were concerned, that a person who had performed such surprising miracles, who had healed the sick, the lame and the blind, and was their physician and helper in all their dis. tresses, should be put to such a painful and ignominious death. At the same time, this compassion in some few of them, may be supposed to have its rise from pure and more disinterested motives. Be this as it will, it shewed itself outwardly in gestures of passionate grief; for they beat their breasts, wrung their hands, wept, and lamented.
These expressions of sorrow in the women, denoted that they were ignorant of the mystery of the cross, and had but a weak faith. Had they known the counsel of God with regard to the sufferings of his Son ; had they been convinced, that Jesus went to death not by compulsion, but willingly; and that he should again soon release himself from its tyranny by a glorious resurrection, they would not have been seen to beat their breasts, lament and bewail him. But in their hearts, he was accounted as one dead ; and they concluded that all the hopes of the redemption of Israel were buried in his grave. However, these circumstances were also directed by the wise and sacred counsel of God. These tears of the spectators bore witness to the innocence of the blessed Jesus, which Pilate had before so often acknowledged. These tears publicly accused his iniquitous judges of injustice, and openly condemned the sentence of death which they had pronounced on him. These tears were some of the outward expressions of grief, due to the memory of the King of Israel. (2 Sam. i. 24. 2 Chron. xxxii. 33. xxxv. 25.) These tears were preludes to the accomplishment of the prophecy of Zachariah, (chap. xii. 10, 14.) who declares, that all the women of the tribes of Israel should one day mourn for the Messiah. Lastly, by this incident the beginning anci the end of our Saviour's sufferings were made to harmonize with each other. He, at whose birth the mothers of Bethlehem (Jer. xxxi. 15.)mourned and wept for their children, (which was a type of this lamentation for the death of the Messiah) is now, at his death, mourned and lamented by the mothers of Jerusalem. From these circumstances we shall deduce the following truths:
1. God is so gracious, that he never suffers us to be
oppressed beyond what we are able to bear ; but, when it is most necessary, he provides some relief.
Thus it happened to the blessed Jesus, in the instance before us.
When his human strength was so
exhausted, so that he was quite unable to bear his cross, God so directed contingencies, that he was eased of its oppressive weight. Thus will it be with every sincere disciple, who with patience and resignation bears the cross of Christ. His faithful and compassionate Saviour, who from his own experience knows, what it is for human nature to be loaded beyond its strength so as to sink under its burden, will have mercy on him ; will prevent him from being oppressed beyond his strength; will lighten the burden under which he groans, and support him with his all sus. taining hand. If it is enjoined in the Divine law, that even an ass shall not lie under the weight of his burden, but that he should be helped up. (Exodus xxiii. 5.) much more will our blessed Lord, in his tender love, hold out his hand to those who bear his cross, and support those who are fainting under it. Of this timely relief all the followers of Christ may make themselves sure. Let us therefore chearfully take up ihat burden, which love will render easy and light; besides, the sufferings of the present time are not to be compared to the glory reserved for him, who holdeth out to the end.
2. God overlooks our natural aversion to sufferings, if we do not wilfully indulge it to excess.
It is not improbable that Simon the Cyrenian at first znade some opposition; for they compelled him to hear the cross of Christ. This is an emblem of the timorous backwardness of human nature in taking up the cross, and its fondness for ease, conveniency, and worldly esteem. Alas! we daily shew our desire to be excused from bearing the cross, and thereby confirm the observation of St. Paul, (Heb. xii. 11.) •That no chastening, for the present, is joyous, but gricvous to us.' How willing soever the spirit may be, the Hesh is generally weak; especially when the cross comes so unexpectedly, as it did here on Simon. But blessed be God, who has compassion on the infirmi. ties of his children, and for Christ's sake, will forgive