26 And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. 27 And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. 28 But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30 Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31 For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him.33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. 35 And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Observations and Reflections
For the most part, the crucification of Jesus is recorded without major variants across the 4 gospels. Only small bits are adjusted such as Matthew and Mark including the sentence,
They tried to give Him wine mixed with myrrh; but He did not take it. (Mark 15:23)
Their is another passage that deserves a look as well and it’s John 19:17. John was likely the final gospel written and John tends to differ in a number of ways from the other 3 gospels. It seems as though, when he wrote 19:17, that he was purposefully trying to contradict the other gospel accounts, as if he thought they were incorrect.
and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. (John 19:17)
So the question remains as to whether Jesus carried the cross to it’s destination or if it was Simon of Cyrene. I think it’s probable that John’s account might be inaccurate a slightly apologetic in nature due to John’s elevated view of Jesus. John’s gospel, among the four, speaks the most of Jesus’ divinity and miracles. It should come as no surprise that John might wants to defend the idea that Jesus received help from no one.
Nevertheless, Jesus was indeed crucified that day and whether or not there are slight discrepancies in the gospel accounts is an irrelevant fact. They all agree on the important parts. Jesus took his place one the cross as a sacrifice for all mankind, so that we sinners could spend eternity with the Lord.
The scene that is set before us is one that is dark, bleak and hopeless. The true Savior of the world, the sinless son of God is being lead away to be nailed to a cross and suffer the most excruciating form of death. There is much reason to mourn and weep, for a time He was someone’s son, brother, friend and master and He was about to be taken away from them.
It is interesting to note how there is mention of two other criminals that are also facing the same fate. However, there is a stark difference as to why they are being punished and why He is being put to death. These two men were deserving of their sentence because of the crimes that they committed. As we have been previously reading, even the two rulers of the time did not find any fault in Him. He was dying and innocent death.
Up until this point those who were playing a physical role in putting Jesus to death, were not relenting. The mocking and the total denial of who He is continued and they sought to bring Him down up until the very last second. They were on a mission to see Him suffer and their goal was to prove to the world that Jesus was not who He says He is and that He carried now divine power or authority.
Even in the midst of this chaos and cruelty, Jesus still sought to show them forgiveness and prayed on their behalf. He never stopped trying to extend His hand of Grace and forgiveness to those who were deep in sin and especially to those who were persecuting Him. He still moves to save lost souls by forgiving the criminal who shows His faith by recognizing who Jesus is.
Forgiveness and Grace are the main components to the message of the Gospel. Jesus’s work on the cross put that on full display and just like the criminal who in the last second of His life was saved, we too have the opportunity before its too late to also be saved. Jesus never stops pursuing lost souls and He is pursuing you today. Recognize your sin, come to Him and have your life be transformed forever.
[Featured image titled; “The Crucifixion” by Giotto Di Bondone, in the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi.]