Matthew 27:32-44 (ESV)
32 As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross. 33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 34 they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. 35 And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. 36 Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. 37 And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” 38 Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. 39 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41 So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ” 44 And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.
At some point along the route to the crucifixion, the procession ran into a man from Cyrene named Simon. Cyrene was a city in North Africa where many Jews lived. Simon was probably in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Whatever the case, Simon was forced to carry Jesus’ cross (actually it was the crossbeam that would be nailed to a supporting beam forming the cross we think of). By this point, Jesus had no more strength. He had been up through the night undergoing various trials, beaten, and then brutally scourged with whips. He was absolutely exhausted physically. One of the Roman soldiers could have carried Jesus’ cross, but since the custom was that the guilty would carry his own cross, there was no way any Roman was going to do that. They finally arrived at Golgotha, the place of the skull. As Jesus hung on the cross, they offered him wine and gall to numb his senses, but he wouldn’t take it. Those who were crucified hung totally naked from their execution racks and had no need for their garments, so the soldiers divided up Jesus’ clothing. This was the most humiliating form of death possible. Over the heads of those crucified was written their crimes. The sign over Jesus read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews” (v. 37).
Matthew doesn’t go into great detail about Jesus’ physical suffering. We often think about all that Jesus endured physically, and it makes us cringe. But we can forget that what he endured physically was nothing compared to what he endured spiritually. No human can imagine what it would be like to have God’s justified wrath toward the sin of humanity poured out upon a soul. God is holy, and his hatred for evil is something we don’t have the ability to comprehend. Somehow, as Jesus willingly became sin for us, his perfect and eternal relationship with the Father was interrupted. Again, no one can fathom what this was like. The physical beatings he endured were just a sign pointing to the real pain Jesus embraced for those who would follow him. If you are a Christian today, stop and thank Jesus for allowing himself to be punished instead of you. In the crucifixion, we see more love than our minds can ever comprehend. If you ever doubt God’s love for you, remember the cross.