The load was too heavy for the Saviour in His weary, suffering condition. He had gone but a few rods when He fell fainting beneath the cross.
When He revived,the cross was again placed upon His shoulders. He staggered on a few steps, and again fell to the ground as one lifeless. His persecutors now realised that it was impossible for Him to go farther with His burden, and they were puzzled to find someone who would carry the humiliating load.
Just then they were met by Simon a Cyrenian, coming from the opposite direction. Him they seized and compelled to carry the cross to Calvary.
The sons of Simon were disciples of Jesus, but he himself had not accepted the Saviour. Simon was ever after
grateful for the privilege of bearing the cross of the Redeemer. The burden he was thus forced to carry became the means of his conversion. The events of Calvary and the words uttered by Jesus led Simon to accept Him as the Son of God.
Arriving at the place of crucifixion, the condemned were bound to the instruments of torture.The two thieves wrestled in the hands of those who stretched them upon the cross; but the Saviour made no resistance.
The mother of Jesus had followed Him on that awful journey to Calvary. She longed to minister to Him as He sank exhausted under His burden, but she was not allowed this privilege.
At every step of that wearisome way she had looked for Him to manifest His God-given power, and release Himself from the murderous throng. And now that the final scene was reached, and she saw the thieves bound to the cross, what an agony of suspense she endured!
Would He who had given life to the dead suffer Himself to be crucified? Would the Son of God suffer Himself to be thus cruelly slain? Must she give up her faith that He was the Messiah?
She saw His hands stretched upon the cross--those hands that had ever been reached out to bless the suffering. The hammer and the nails were brought, and as the spikes were driven through the tender flesh, the heart-broken disciples bore from the cruel scene the fainting form of the mother of Jesus.
The Saviour made no murmur of complaint; His face remained pale and serene, but great drops of sweat stood on His brow. His disciples had fled from the dreadful scene.
He was treading the winepress alone; and of the people there were none with Him. (Isaiah 63:3.)
As the soldiers were doing their work, the mind of Jesus passed from His own sufferings to the terrible retribution that His persecutors must one day meet. He pitied them in their ignorance, and prayed:
"Father,forgive them; for they know not what they do."
Christ was earning the right to become the advocate for men in the Father's presence. That prayer for His enemies embraced the world. It took in every sinner who had lived or should live, from the beginning of the world to the end of time.
Whenever we sin,Christ is wounded afresh. For us He lifts His pierced hands before the Father's throne, and says, "Forgive them; for they know not what they do."
As soon as Christ was nailed to the cross, it was lifted by strong men, and with great violence thrust into the place prepared for it. This caused intense suffering to the Son of God.
Pilate then wrote an inscription in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and placed it upon the cross, above the head of Jesus, where all might see it. It read:
"Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews."
The Jews requested that this might be changed. The chief priests said:
"Write not,The King of the Jews; but that He said, I am King of the Jews."
But Pilate was angry with himself because of his former weakness. He also thoroughly despised the jealous and wicked rulers. So he answered:
"What I have written I have written." John 19:22.
The soldiers divided the clothing of Jesus among themselves. One garment was woven without seam, and about this there was a contention. They finally settled the matter by casting lots. God's prophet had foretold that they would do this. He wrote:
"Dogs have compassed Me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed Me: they pierced My hands and My feet. . . . They part My garments among them, and cast lots upon My vesture." Psalms 22:16, 18.
As soon as Jesus was lifted up on the cross, a terrible scene took place. Priests, rulers, and scribes joined with the rabble in mocking and jeering the dying Son of God,saying:
"If Thou be the King of the Jews, save Thyself." Luke 23:37.
"He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He be the King of Israel, let Him now comedown from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now, if He will have Him: for He said, I am the Son of God."Matthew 27:42, 43.
"And they that passed by railed on Him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, Thou thatdestroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save Thyself, and comedown from the cross." Mark 15:29, 30.
Christ could have come down from the cross. But if He had done this, we could never have been saved. For our sake He was willing to die.
"He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed." Isaiah 53:5.