Plutarch wrote, “every criminal condemned to death bears his cross on his back.” Jesus was too weak to carry the patibulum, the cross beam, so the Roman soldiers “compelled a passerby” to carry it for him. Simon of Cyrene, which was on the north coast of Africa. Simon was likely a man of color, but he was not a Roman citizen and that’s why they told him to do it. He was close by and they needed to get this man and his instrument of torture out of town. What did Simon do for Jesus? He took up his cross and followed Jesus, the very thing that Jesus has told his disciples to do. James Edwards writes, “It is worth considering…whether Simon’s faithfulness in carrying the cross of Jesus resulted in his sons’ participation in the faith and in the church.” I would submit to you that it is the most important thing a son or daughter can see their father and their mother do! Do they see you work hard to provide food and clothing, to keep a clean house and give them opportunities to learn and grow and have fun and get rest and be healthy? Excellent! But even more excellent is that they see their dad and their mom taking up their cross daily and following the Lord. There is no price that could be put on that blessing for any child.
They led Jesus out of the city and to Golgotha, which Mark tells his Roman readers was called “the place of the skull.” There they offered Jesus an ancient narcotic, “wine mixed with myrrh,” but he refused. It would have numbed him a little, but Jesus does not give himself to dulled senses. He welcomes the Father’s will with a fully conscious state.
They divided his clothing by casting lots. The wine mixed with myrrh and the divided clothing were prophesies which the Roman soldiers unwittingly fulfilled. “They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.” (Psalm 69:21) “They divide my garments among them, and for my clothes they cast lots.” (Psalm 22:18)
They crucified Jesus in between two robbers, recalling the question James and John had asked Jesus, if they could be positioned on his right and his left in the kingdom. Mark opens up a little more now, breaking away from his normal reserve to report on the scorners who passed by the cross. They are not given names, just described as deriding Jesus, wagging their heads, and mocking him. Again, a fulfillment of prophesy: “All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” (Psalm 22:7-8)
They mock him as a prophet. “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross.
They mock him as a priest. “He saved others; he cannot save himself.”
They mock him as a king. “Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down from the cross that we may see and believe.”
The mockery of Jesus did not end at the cross but continues today all around the world. There are churches all over the country that have different color doors on their front lawns that represent Islam and Hinduism and Buddhism and other world religions, along with their symbols, and the message written on them is, “God’s doors are open to all.” It makes a mockery of the cross where the Son of God died who said, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved…” (John 10:9) “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you…this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:1-3)
Back to the cross…They mocked the prophet, the priest, the king, the Christ. Notice that all three of these taunts assume that to save oneself is the highest aim, and that to vindicate himself as a Messiah, Jesus only needs to come down from the cross and save himself. But Jesus did not leave glory and come to earth to teach us how to help ourselves or how to fulfill ourselves. We cannot save ourselves, and all the world religions deceive men and women into thinking that they can. But Jesus came to “give his life as a ransom for many.” He came to do the will of the Father, not his own will. The irony is that those who mock him and tell him they would believe in him as a Savior if he would only come down from the cross would have nothing to believe in had he done that. Jesus died on the cross. Just as he said he would.