And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross.
I. It is interesting to remark THAT THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF ANCIENT PROPHECY SEEMS OFTEN TO HAVE HUNG UPON A THREAD, so that the least thing, a thought, a word, might have sufficed to prevent its occurrence. The marvel is that the enemies of Christ were not more on the alert than to allow things to be done which they could see were evidences of His Messiahship. How easy for them to have taken care that vinegar and gall should not be given Him on the cross. It is a striking proof of the certainty with which God can reckon on every working of the human mind. Isaac was a type of Christ; he carried the wood on which he was to be sacrificed. This type was fulfilled when our Lord was led forth carrying His cross. This was the better Isaac, bearing the wood for the burnt-offering. Yet how near was the prophecy to being defeated! It was only for a part of the way that Christ carried the cross.
II. WHAT INDUCED THE FIERCE AND BRUTAL SOLDIERS TO GRANT THE REDEEMER THIS LITTLE INDULGENCE, and relieve Him for a time of the burden of the cross. They probably feared, from the exhausted condition of our Lord, that death would ensue before He reached Calvary. This an incidental notice which shows us how great were the endurances of the Mediator. This incident shows us that Christ was as sensitive to bodily pain as we are.
III. THE INCIDENT SYMBOLICAL. "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me." He teaches His disciples that they must bear the same cross as Himself. St. Paul says: — "I fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh," etc. There is no greater mistake than to represent it as an easy thing to attain eternal life; the bearing the cross is the indispensable condition of wearing the crown. Many a cross is of our own manufacture, the consequence of our sin; these are not the cross which was laid upon Simon, and which had first been on Christ. "They are counted worthy to suffer shame for His name" — so we read of the apostles. The offence of the cross has not ceased. The followers of Christ gain nothing by those compromises which may be made in hopes of conciliating the world. You will make it all the heavier by avoiding it when it lies in the clear path of duty. But take comfort: the cross was carried by Christ before it was carried by Simon. And is this all that was typically represented by the laying of the cross on Simon the Cyrenian? Indeed we ought never to press a type too far: it is easy, by indulging the imagination, to injure or bring into discredit the whole of the figurative lesson. Yet there is one thing more which we would venture to advance, though we may not speak with the same confidence as when asserting that Christ taught by action, as He had before taught by word, that His disciples must suffer with Him, if they ever hope to reign. We have already mentioned our inability to ascertain any particulars respecting Simon, or even to determine whether he were a Jew or a Pagan. Many of the ancient fathers suppose him to have been a Pagan, and consider that, in being made to bear the cross after Christ, He typified the conversion of idolatrous nations which either have been or will be brought to a profession of faith in our Lord. And there are no such reasons against this opinion as can require its rejection, nor such even as can show that the weight of probability is on the opposite side. We must be therefore at liberty to entertain the opinion, and, at least, to point out the inferences which would follow on supposition of its truth. But once let it be considered that Simon was a Pagan, and our text becomes one of those bright, prophetic lines which shoot through centuries of gloom, giving promise of a morning, if they cannot scatter night.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross.