by Daniel McCabe
Walk to the Cross
Isaiah 53:7, “He was led as a lamb to the slaughter.”
Under the command of their crusty centurion, the four-man execution squad stripped Jesus of the purple robe that they had used as a prop to mock his claims of kingship, and they forced Jesus to change back into his own clothes before parading him through the streets of Jerusalem to a spot just outside the city walls. A sleepless night and a brutal beating having exacted a heavy toll on his physical strength, Jesus stumbled under the weight of the 100 lb. crossbeam placed upon his shoulders. Long ago Abraham had forced Isaac to carry the very wood to which he would be tied for sacrifice, but God stopped Abraham right before his knife fell, providing a sacrificial ram in place of the obedient son. The smell of the rough wood on his back reminded Jesus of his own father’s workshop in Nazareth, and his spirit resolved to obey his heavenly Father’s perfect plan even though with one word Jesus could have called down a legion of angels from heaven to carry him home and escape the nails that would soon puncture his innocent flesh. No ram in the thicket and no angels to intervene. The Lamb of God must die for the sins of men. Only the Perfect could rightly give his life for the imperfect in order to pay the penalty for sin required of a holy God. And so Jesus inched forward until the crossbeam pounded his exhausted frame into the bloodied dirt beneath his feet. One of the soldiers then compelled an unsuspecting bystander to carry the Carpenter’s cross—Simon of Cyrene, who would later undoubtedly become a Christian (cf. Acts 2:10, 36-41)—and in time the squad of soldiers, Simon, two other condemned men, our suffering Savior and many onlookers completed their march from the praetorium, the place of Jesus’ condemnation, to Calvary, the place of his execution.
Every Friday afternoon in Jerusalem today, Christian pilgrims gather at the traditional location of Jesus’ condemnation just outside the Convent of the Sisters of Zion in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem where a Franciscan monk will lead them along the route of Jesus’ walk to the cross. The modern route speculatively highlights fourteen stops, including, for example, the spot where Simon took up the cross for Jesus, and the route concludes at the traditional location of the burial of Jesus. Known as the Via Dolorosa or “Way of Suffering,” it winds its way along a paved path of smooth stones that city workers unearthed during the 1970s while installing a new sewer system. Archaeologists subsequently determined a first-century date for the stones, prompting local municipal leaders to order the stones re-laid on the modern street rather than to have them go cold in a musty museum. In other words those who walk along the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem today are actually walking where Jesus walked.
May those stones stir our hearts to remember the sacrifice that Jesus made for sinners. For me. For you. And may we too, like Simon of Cyrene, put our faith in Jesus Christ who gave his life for all men.
Further Reading: Matthew 27:31-32; Mark 15:20-21; Luke 23:26-32; John 19:16-17
Dr. Daniel McCabe is the pastor of Faith Bible Church in Spring, Texas. He is a contributing editor for The Jerusalem Connection Report. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.