32 As they were coming out, they found a man of Cyrene named Simon, whom they pressed into service to bear His cross.
Even though the scriptures aren’t clear on this detail, we assume that Jesus was too weak to carry the cross at this point as a result of His beating, so the Romans grabbed a bystander to help Him carry it. Some may think back to when Jesus said, “The Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” But let us think further back in Jesus’ story to when He was teaching the disciples about following Him as in Luke 14:
26 “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. 27 “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.
Whether or not Jesus knew at this point that He too would be carrying a cross is also unclear, but irrelevant. The point is being able to deny oneself or to put it in plainer words, we must be willing to surrender our own will in exchange for God’s. As we have seen Jesus’ spiritual battle since the garden against His flesh which wanted to find another way, He clung to God’s promises that the pain is worth the prize.
27 “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. 28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. 30 “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
When we picture that heavy piece of wood laid across our back and dragging it to our death, it is easy to think, “uh, yeah I can’t bear this.” But when we realize that just as Simon was by Jesus’ side in those moments of physical frailty, Jesus is by our side as well to help us with that burden. It’s not like He has given us such a difficult physical demand that some won’t make the cut because they are physically unable. Our battle is a spiritual one, not a physical one. So, our carrying of the cross is easier physically than it is spiritually. The yoke mentioned in Matthew 11 is one of teaching and guidance. As we drag our cross Jesus comes alongside us and not only gives us the strength, help, and encouragement we need, He helps us enjoy and appreciate the journey!
This world would tell us that this is a bunch of hogwash. “Nothing like that is easy.” If it were up to us on our own, yes that statement is true. And the world makes statements like that because they see the process through blind eyes and hear the promises with deaf ears. They don’t see it from the perspective of Jesus’ love, grace and mercy which empowers us to overcome the struggles of this world. These are the same struggles that the world cannot overcome because it has no hope. It has no hope because it doesn’t see what is possible with Jesus by its side. Yet in John 16, right before this crucifixion process started, we read:
33 “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
Yes, we have a cross to take up daily, but Jesus is right next to us encouraging us, strengthening us, guiding us, and helping us all the way.