Compulsion and Invitation; the Human and the Divine Methods
Luke 23:26
And as they led him away, they laid hold on one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him they laid the cross…

Here we have an illustration of -

I. HUMAN VIOLENCE. "They laid hold upon" one Simon, and "him they compelled" (Matthew 27:32) to bear his cross. What right had these Roman soldiers to impress this stranger into their service? What claim had they upon him? By what law of rectitude did they arrest him as he was entering the city, and insist on his bearing a burden, and going whither he would not? What justified them in laying hands upon him and violently enforcing this service? None whatever; nothing whatsoever. It was only another instance of the unscrupulousness of human power. Thus has it been everywhere and always. Let men but feel that they have the mastery, that theirs is the more powerful mind, the firmer will, the stronger hand, and they will ask no leave, consult no law, be restrained by no consideration of conscience. The history of man, where not under special Divine direction, has been the history of the assertion of strength over weakness; that has been the course of national, of tribal, of family, of individual life. The strong man, well armed, has "laid hold upon" the weak man, and laid some burden upon him to carry. He has virtually said, "I can command your labor, serve me; if you refuse to do so, you shall pay some penalty of my own choosing." Human violence

(1) is essentially unrighteous, for it is based on no claim that can be properly so called;

(2) has been found to be shamelessly unmerciful;

(3) has been gradually, though slowly, subjected to the great rule of Christ (Matthew 7:12);

(4) is destined in time to make way for the rule of righteousness.

II. DIVINE PERSUASIVENESS. God does not compel us to serve him. He may, indeed, so wisely overrule all things as to make the life deliberately withheld from him or the action directed against him (e.g. the act of betrayal by Judas) contribute to the final issue; but he does not force the individual soul to serve him. Jesus Christ does not compel us to his service. It is true that his invitations have the authority of a command; but his commands have the sweetness of invitations.

1. He invites us to approach him and seek his favor. "Come unto me all ye that labor" is not a severe command; it is a most gracious invitation. "Whosoever believeth on me hath everlasting life" is not a peremptory injunction; it is a welcome and generous announcement. And while it is indeed true that Christ says, imperatively "Follow me!" it is also true that he does not force any one into his company; he makes his appeal to our conscience and conviction; he will not have any in his service who do not freely and whole-heartedly consent to come.

2. He graciously influences us, that we may see and follow the true light. Paul, indeed, does speak of Christ as "apprehending," or laying hold of, him (Philippians 3:12). But this referred to the very exceptional manifestation of his Divine power, and the language is strongly figurative. The Spirit of God does illumine our understanding and affect our heart; but he does not compel us to decide without the consent of our own will. In the last resort we have to "choose life" or death.

3. He summons us to a full discipleship by following him as one that bore a cross (Luke 9:23; Matthew 16:24). He lets us know that we shall not meet with iris full approval if we do not bear the cross after him, if we do not follow him in the path of sacrificial love. But there is truest kindness, both of substance and manner, in this his urgent challenge.

4. He promises us inward rest here, and a large reward hereafter, if we do hear his voice and do thus follow him. Between human compulsion and Divine invitation or Divine constraint, there is exceeding breadth: the one is an intolerable tyranny; the other is essential righteousness, and introduces to true liberty, to spiritual rest, to abiding joy. - C.

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: When they led him away, they grabbed one Simon of Cyrene, coming from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it after Jesus.

Bearing Christ's Cross
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