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Christ LED AWAY TO BE CRUCIFIED.—SIMON BEARS THE CROSS AFTER HIM.—THE WOMEN WHO FOLLOW
BEWAIL AND LAMENT HIM. LUKE 23, 26–31. And as they led Him away, they laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him they "laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus. And there followed Him a great company of people, and of women, which also be: ailed and lamented Him. But Jesus iurning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For, behold, the davs are coming, in the which they shall say, B essed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck. Then shall they begin io say to the mountains, Fall on 118; and to the hills, Cover us. For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?
imon's hearing the cross and the women's Cosweeping occurred while Christ was being led from Pilate to the place of execution. Matthew, Mark and Luke alike make mention of Simon, a Cyrenian, to show, no doubt, that what is said of him was no accident, as it might seem, but so ordained by God for a special purpose, viz.: that at the very time when Christ should be led away to suffer, all Christians might have an example set, from which to learn how they should fare on earth, —that they must bear the cross after the Lord Jesus, like Simon here. This good and pious man, not knowing in what the Jews at Jerusalem were engaged, went into the city according to his need and opportunity, to attend to his business. And now, as the Lord and the two murderers were led toward him, and the Lord, on account of weakness,
could carry no further the cross which had been placed on Him, and which, since a strong, fullgrown man was to be nailed to it, must have been pretty heavy, the soldiers ran up to good, pious Simon and compelled him to take up the cross or tree, to which Christ was to be nailed, and to bear it after the Lord.
This looks as if it had happened incidentally. But it is, as already said, a picture of all Christians, which God wished to show to His Church just when His dear Son, Jesus Christ, was Himself suffering, so as to check that common offence which is so apt to lead us all astray. For as soon as God comes to us with the cross, attacking our body or property, giving us ill-bred children or sending some other misfortune or calamity, our courage
We then conclude that God does not wish us well, and that if He loved us He would deal more gently with us. We take the fact that He permits us to be troubled, afflicted and tormented as an indication that He is angry with us and refuses to be gracious.
Now, the picture in our text is to operate against offences of this kind. In the first place, we see the Son of God bearing His cross Himself and finding it so heavy that it nearly throws Him down and that He can scarcely walk. Mark this well! For if such things happen to the green and fruitful tree, about which we shall soon be told, it is easy to infer that better things shall not and can not happen the dry and unfruitful tree. In the second place, we see pious Simon doing the work that others should have done; had he not come near where Christ was compelled to carry His cross, he would never
have needed to bear a cross. But here he suffers for the Lord Jesus; because Christ carries the cross, he also must suffer and help to carry it. Remember, it shall never be different with Christians here; they must all submit with Simon and bear the cross after Christ.
Although God may bear with the wicked for a while and permit them to receive everything that their hearts wish and covet, still their punishment shall not be delayed always. They too must suffer here on earth, receiving now here a kick then there a thrust, and never afterward enjoying uninterrupted success, as the 32. Psalm tells us: “Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; but he that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about," and as is glaringly shown by examples.
Severe and violent were the sufferings of ungodly Pharaoh and his Egyptians. And how much misfortune, oppression and grief did not the Jews have to bear in the desert and afterward in the land of Canaan, until, finally, the Assyrian wasted the ten tribes, and, some time after, even Judah's tribe was flung into the whirlpool of woes and the entire land conquered by the Babylonians! But it is not necessary to cite many instances. Each one need merely think of what he himself has seen and experienced in his own case and in that of others. It is, therefore, impossible that punishment, distress, wretchedness and tribulation should finally fail to follow where God is not feared and where His Word and will are resisted.
But from the case of Simon here we must learn to make a difference between the holy cross and the well-deserved punishment and misery of the
wicked. No wonder if the knave fares badly; for he rushes to his doom with open eyes. If the thief would stop his stealing he would, no doubt, remain secure against the gallows and the hangman. As for men and women, if they would refrain from debauchery, they might enjoy wealth, honor and health. But since they do not desist, but continue in sin, God punishes them with poverty, disgrace, disease, or other misfortunes. These wicked ones wish nothing else and nothing better; for by their sin and impenitent lives they themselves furnish the cause for their misery and distress; they urge God, who would delight in being nierciful and in giving them all good things, yea, they compel Him to make His anger burn at once, to heap destruction on them and to stem the tide of sin. Peter therefore says, 1 Pet. 4, 15: “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evil-doer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.” Ile thus makes this distinction, that not all suffering is to be called a "cross;" for that which the wicked suffer is not their cross, but their punishment and merited reward; while that which Christians suffer, like Simon here, is called and is in reality a "cross," because it is not merited, but the fault of others. If Simon had not just happened to meet the Lord Jesus, he would have been let alone; but he has to suffer for it that he came where Christ was being led to the crucifixion.
In this way all Christians should suffer and bear the cross; even as Peter says: Not "suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, ... yet ... as a Christian," that is, for the sake of the Lord Jesus and His
Word and confession. All Christians acknowledge themselves to be poor sinners, and know that through sin they have deserved all the calamities God sends upon them on earth, and many more. They are, indeed, the only ones who acknowledge their short-comings, weakness and transgressions ; for sin's peculiar punishment is eternal death, and not this or that particular temporal misfortune. Nevertheless, their suffering is not the punishment for sin, but the real and holy "cross.” His being a sinner and his stumbling and falling occasionally, is not the reason why the Christian is hated by the evil adversary and the world. No, both the devil and the world could well tolerate that, and would be satisfied with the Christian as far as that is concerned. But the Christian holds to the Word and has faith; he put his hope in Christ, the Son of God, and is comforted in His death and resurrection; he fears God and tries to live according to His will; he labors hard, by means of his confession, to persuade others to believe and to come to the knowledge of Christ. This it is that neither the devil nor his tender bride, the world, can endure; this it is that makes Satan rage so terribly against all Christians; this it is that makes him always pursue them, afflicting their bodies with disease and sometimes their property with loss by storms, or hail, or fire, as it was the case with Job. (Job 1.) And sometimes he troubles them with great secret torments of conscience, such as melancholy, sadness, fear, trembling, doubts, dread of death, and like fiery darts of the devil, about which the Psalms lament so much. Of this kind was the temptation of Paul which he mentions 2 Cor. 12: “There was