The Cross After Jesus
Scripture is full of double-entendres. Often they are found in the historical details in the Gospels that serve to teach spiritual lessons. Perhaps the most vivid of these is the account of Simon the Cyrene bearing the cross after Jesus (Luke 23:26). The Savior, having been scourged and weakened by the abuse that he endured at the sinful, God-hating hands of men, was carrying the cross to the place where he would be crucified. In all likeliness, it became evident that he was too weak to continue carrying it. Luke tells us that Simon the Cyrene was passing by from the country and they placed the cross on him and made him bear it after the Savior. Simone was the father of two of Jesus' disciples (Mark 16:21), himself being, by reasonable conclusion, one of Jesus' disciples. The reference does not serve to teach that the Savior needed help to carry out his sufferings. That misunderstands the spiritual significance altogether. Neither does it merely serve to teach the extent of Jesus' physical suffering (though it does further our understanding of what the Savior endured on our account). Rather, it teaches us that all of Jesus' true disciples are called to bear the cross after him and will live all of their life under the shadow of the cross.
Friedrick Krummacher, in his book The Suffering Savior, wrote,
"When, in this sense, we have taken the cross of Christ upon us, God who has humbled us, is wont, in due time, to comfort us. We again arise from the darkness and horrors of self-condemnation into the crimson-colored sunshine of the atonement. In the cross of Christ, we recognize me mysterious tree, on which the sentence which menaced us with eternal destruction has long ago been endured. We apprehend the mystery of the cross in its consolatory depth, and enter into a new relation with it, embrace it as our only refuge, and believingly appropriate the merits of him who suffered upon it. We now take it in a different manner upon us than before; certainly more from necessity at first than desire. Proud human nature resists the idea of being saved by grace. In the sequel, however, we become reconciled to the wondrous burden, and finally bear it with delight, even as an heir his inheritance, as a king his scepter, as a warrior his sword and shield, as a conqueror the flag of victory, as a liberated debtor his receipt in full, and as a nobleman the diploma of his nobility.
Thus, in a spiritual sense, we become like Simon of Cyrene. We enter into the most vital, fervent, and blissful fellowship with the cross of Christ. We are every where and continually occupied with this cross, and it becomes the sign by which we are known. If listened to .in our chamber, we are heard praying beneath the cross. If we say, "Abba, father," it is the cross which encourages us to do so. If we hope for a favorable ' answer to our requests, the cross emboldens us to expect it. If our conversation is in heaven, the cross is the heavenly ladder, on the steps of which we rise above the world, death, and hell. The cross forms the focus of all our heartfelt melody. If a gleam of joy rests upon our foreheads, the cross is the sun from whence it proceeds. If we are courageous, it is in the shadow of the cross. If we overcome the temptations of the wicked one, the cross of Christ is the banner under which we conquer.
We do not indeed always embrace the cross with equal warmth and fervor. Occasionally, we bear it with indifference, unwillingly, and even as a burden. This is the case either when the root of our life again sinks imperceptibly deeper into the soil of this world ; or when the Lord causes our mountain to stand strong, and we take fresh occasion to please ourselves with our own doings. But God, who is as faithful in humbling as in comforting us, knows how to render the cross sweet to us, by giving up our old man to a renewed crucifixion, and by reviving and refreshing in us the consciousness of our wretchedness in the midst of distress, disgrace, and pressure. Generally speaking, the experience of all who, in faith, take upon them the cross of Christ, agrees in this, that they are ever longer drawn into the death of him who hung upon the tree. They decrease. They consciously become personally poorer, more worthless and helpless — nay, in time, nothing remains in them of which they might boast as a ground of justification. But the more completely they suffer shipwreck as to every thing of their own, the more valuable does the cross of Calvary become to them, as the only plank of rescue from the surge. How fervently is it then again embraced, how highly and loudly praised, and how bedewed with warm tears of grateful thanksgiving, until at length the whole inward life moves round the cross, in ever closer drawn circles, like the revolving planets round their several suns.
May the Lord be pleased to impress the form of Simon the cross-bearer ever more clearly upon our inner man ; and in order that this figure may be the more fully produced in us, may he the more and more comprehensively unvail to us the corruption which adheres to us by nature ! It is only thus that we learn to bear the cross of Christ with a holy pride. Only thus does it become to us a tree of fife, from which we may pluck heavenly fruit. Only thus does it serve as a wondrous weapon, by means of winch we overcome the world, death, and Satan."
1. Friedrick Krummacher The Suffering Savior (Boston: Gould and Lincoln, 1869) pp. 342-343