A Trial of Grief
Jesus endured a merciless emotional and physical ordeal as He made His way from Pilate's courtroom to God's throne room via a gate marked death. He faced a trial of grief before Pilate and a trail of tears as He was led through the city gates to the place of the skull where worthless men were disposed of. It is interesting to contrast Jesus' divine strength and perfect character with what He put Himself through for us on His last day.
And A Trail of Tears
Christ, whose yoke is easy, struggled beneath the weight of the cross.
It was customary for the condemned man to carry his own cross to the site of crucifixion outside the city walls. Since the weight of the entire cross was probably well over three hundred pounds, only the cross bar (patibulum) of perhaps one hundred pounds was carried. (The vertical part, called stipes, was kept on site at Golgotha.) Jesus evidently carried His cross for a time, but under its weight, and in His weakened condition, His strength gave out and He fell beneath the load (John 19:17; Luke 23:26). It is interesting that Jesus struggled with that weight. He who made the world (John 1:10) and keeps it together by "the word of his power" (Heb. 1:3) struggled to carry a tiny part of it. He whose curse could wither a live fig tree (Matt. 21:19, withered beneath Calvary's dead tree. This simply points to His humanity--He set aside His divine strength to die as a man.
Consider this struggle beneath the weight of the cross in light of His famous invitation to sinners. "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matt. 11:28-30). When Jesus saw others straining under the "patibulum" of sin, He offered to take it from their shoulders and put it on His own. In fact, He is doing exactly that as He makes the shameful parade down "death row." He carried His cross that we might not have to carry ours. He was made to be ". . . sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (2 Cor. 5:21). The burden lifter became the burden bearer (1 Cor. 5:7).
Christ, who brought joy to the world,
Jesus is pictured as a happy person who took children into His arms (Mark 9:36), attended weddings and happy Jewish festivals (John 2; Matt. 26:17), feasted with both the poor and the rich (Mark 2:16; Luke 7), and, to use Luke's phrase, generally "rejoiced in spirit" (10:21). Further, He brightened whatever corner of Palestine He visited. Parents thrilled to have Him hold their babies (Matt. 19:13). Hopeless sinners went home from visits with Him thinking that tomorrow was a new day (Mark 12:37). The lame walked away from Him (Matt. 11:5), the deaf heard his sermons (Matt. 15:30), the blind saw His face as their first sight (Mark 10:52), the sick got out of bed to wait on Him (Matt 8:14-15), and grieving fathers and mothers had their dead children restored to them (Matt. 5:41; Luke 7:22). His disciples marveled at His power and multitudes were held spellbound by His profound mountainside speeches (e.g., Matt. 7:28-29). An embarrassed woman had her dignity restored (John 8), a short, hated tax-collector had the King stay at his house (Luke 19), and cast-out lepers no longer needed gynecologists when they had been touched by his hands (Matt. 8:3). Thank of all the personal happiness Jesus brought to people during His short sojourn here on earth!
was followed by a band of weeping women.
Now contrast these scenes with the one the Via Dela Rosa (path to Calvary). It really was a "trail of tears." Tender-hearted women cried when Jesus was taken to Calvary (Luke 23:26-31). They were bewildered, heart-broken, and drenched in sorrow. They loved Him so much that they could not leave Him, even though each glance at His mutilated body cut them deeply in the quick of their hearts. Jesus, perhaps hearing their sobs, turned and bade them--interestingly--not to quit crying (as many men would have done). He told them to keep weeping--only not for Him! Imagine the selflessness! Anybody else would have been filled with self-pity. But not Him. He tells them to weep for themselves. His thoughts are more with the pain of others yet forty years away than with His own only minutes in the future. He overlooked His grueling ordeal and saw their days of terror coming at the hand of Titus in A.D. 70. To a Jewish woman no tragedy was like a childless marriage; in fact under their civil law childlessness was grounds for divorce. But the day would come when the woman who had no child would be glad that it was so. Jesus foresaw the destruction of that city which had so often, and now so finally, refused God's invitation. (The question, "For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be don in the dry?" (Luke 23:31) is interesting. It is a proverbial phrase meaning, "If they do this to One who they know is innocent in a time of peace, what will they some day do to those they consider guilty in time of war?") Do not miss the irony in the fact that He who came to planet earth to bring happiness left it a "man of sorrows" and "acquainted with grief" (Isa. 53:3).
Christ, the holy Son of God, rubbed elbows with two thieves.
It was of predetermined purpose that the authorities crucified Jesus between two know criminals. This was deliberately staged to humiliate Jesus in front of the crowd and to rank Him with robbers. (But those who tried to embarrass Him by this insult in death missed the greater symbolism. Dying between thieves symbolized what He had done His whole life. He companied with sinners for He had come to seek and save them (Luke 19:10).) He who was purer than angels (Heb. 1:4) and as holy as God (John 10:30: Mark 1:24; Acts 2:27) was put between two judged as unfit to live among fellow humans. He who never once sinned (Heb. 4:15) was joined to men who sinned so often, and to such a degree, that their fellow sinners executed them. He who never once said a curse or cross word died with His ears full of the profane curses of one who prostituted his God-given tongue with both (Luke 23:39). He whose saliva had been used to heal (Mark 7:33; 8:23), died with the dried spit of His enemies on His face (Matt. 26:67; 27:30). He who gave away everything He ever had died between men who took what did not belong to them (Mark 15:27). He who was ". . . such an high priest . . ." as to be described a ". . . holy, harmless, undefiled" had those who were corrupt, dangerous, and tainted as His closest companions in His most passionate moments. He who was "separate from sinners" nonetheless died beside them. He who was "made higher than the heavens" became associated with those who were of the scum of the earth (phrases taken from Hebrews 7:26). What a contradiction that the holy Son of God should die with the corrupt sons of men! How interesting that the holiest of all men died as the most worthless of men die.
The more we study Him, the move we love Him!