Mark 15 v 21 - 28

This passage reminds us of the power of the Roman state. They could do whatever they liked in Judea. Yes, there were rules to enable a smooth governance, but when things needed to happen they exerted their authority and anyone could be coerced into carrying things for them. Here it was a cross and we are told in Jesus' teaching in the Sermon on the Mount about carrying two miles rather than one for a Roman soldier-Matthew 5 v 41.

Travelling to Jerusalem today, the visitor will come across the Via Dolorosa, which was the traditional walk of the condemned criminal from the Temple courts to Golgotha, the rubbish dump outside the city. Today, it wends its way through many market stalls and there are churches built as memorials to the death march. In front of Jesus would have been a soldier carrying a board which stated the crime of the criminal and this would have been fixed to the cross at the crucifixion site. The Via Dolorosa was not the shortest distance between the two sites, it was the longest so that everyone could witness what was to occur and the Roman law and order be emphasised.

At the site of crucifixion the cross would have been laid flat on the ground and the prisoner's wrists nailed to it. The feet were loosely bound and there would have been a wooden ledge on the cross to take the weight of the prisoner when the cross was lifted upright. Sometimes prisoners would hang there for a week before they died of thirst, driven insane by their dying torture.

It is probable that Simon, who was from Cyrene in Africa, had journeyed to Jerusalem specifically for Passover and now he had been charged with carrying the heavy weight for this criminal. It was not a pleasant task and, in carrying it out, it must have forced him to be part of the little group around Jesus, who would have been harangued by the crowd. However, we have reason to be hopeful for Simon: not only is he named, but his children are named too. Now, think of Mark writing his Gospel. As with every book of the New Testament it was written for a specific reason and generally to a specific group. It is likely that Mark was writing to the church in Rome and, when we turn to Paul's letter to the Romans we can read of his greeting to Rufus, 'chosen in the Lord', and his mother which Paul commended by calling her, ''A mother to me also.'' Romans 16 v 13.

Not only that, but we read in Acts 13 v 1 a list of the prophets and teachers of the church at Antioch and one of them is Simon the black man. It is quite possible that this is Simon of Cyrene! This was a bad, hard day in his life, but it seems, a life-changing one also!

Jesus was hung upon the cross and He was offered wine mixed with myrrh to reduce the pain. Some godly women in Jerusalem made this their business: what a horrible yet blessed commitment! Jesus refused as He was resolved to taste death at its bitterest and unclouded by opiates. The little perk for the soldiers were the clothes of the criminal-the five articles which every Jew wore: the inner robe, the outer robe, the sandals, the girdle and the turban. The most expensive thing was the outer robe and the four soldiers had all received one of the other pieces of clothing, so they used dice to decide who should have this garment.

We are told that Jesus was crucified between two thieves: in death as in life He kept company with outcasts and sinners.

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