As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross. And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads 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.” So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “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. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.
(Matthew 27:32-44 ESV)
It had been a long journey from the north of Africa to the streets of Jerusalem. It was the journey of a life time, but Simon had never expected to see what he saw. He never expected to step into history as the man who carried the cross of Christ.
And yet, he did. Compelled by the Roman guards, he picked up the 30-40 pound wooden stake and carried it through the narrow streets, navigating his way around the surging crowds. He endured the shouts, the mocking voices that followed the procession out the gate of the city to the place called Golgotha.
There, at Calvary, he laid his burden down.
And Jesus picked it up.
He picked it up by allowing himself to be nailed to it. The nails pierced the hands that took on our sin, our burdens, our inadequacies and our unrighteousness.
The soldiers played games for his clothes. Passersby challenged him to save himself. Chief priests, scribes and elders of the law told him to come down from the cross. Even the robbers crucified on each side of him hurled insults at him.
And he took all that on, too.
He carried it all on the cross.