Harmony of the Gospels


(35) Led to Golgotha

Scripture: Matthew 27:31-34; Mark 15:20-23; Luke 23:26-33 (focal passage); John 19:16, 17

Tom Lowe



Christ is sentenced to be crucified. He was forced to carry the heavy cross, but as the procession neared the gate, He succumbed to exhaustion and fell to the ground, unable to go any further. The cross is then forced upon one Simon of Cyrene. The Lord addressed the women mourners who followed Him, saying they should cry for themselves, not Him. He was crucified at Calvary.

Location: Jerusalem

Date: Friday of Jesus’ final week 

(Matthew 27:31) And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him.
(Mark 15:20) And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple from him, and put his own clothes on him, and led him out to crucify him.
(John 19:16) Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away.

Finally they put His own clothes back on Him, and led Him away to be crucified; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, as a sacrifice to the altar. We can imagine how they hurried him along, dragging Him through the streets packed with the curious and those who wanted Him dead. They probably hurled taunts and cursed Him and whipped Him. They led him away out of the city. Paul said He suffered without the gate—“Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate” (Heb. 13:12), and in the parable Jesus speaks of Him being cast out of the vineyard—“And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him” (Matthew 21:39).

(Luke 23:26) And as they led him away,  [1]they laid hold upon one Simon, a  [2]Cyrenian, coming out of the  [3]country, and on him they  [4]laid the cross, that he might  [5]bear it after Jesus.
(Matthew 27:32) And as they came out, they found a man of 2[2]Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross.
(Mark 15:21) And they compel one Simon a 2[2]Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross.

It was now early in the morning on Friday, the day that Jesus died. It seems at first He carried the cross unaided, like Isaac carried the wood for the burnt-offering. This was intended, as other things, to cause Him both pain and shame. As was customary and according to the Law the execution was carried out outside the city ([6]Hebrews 13:12-13). People are divided over the question, “Did He carry the entire cross or was it the crossbeam alone?” We are not told, but we know that initially He carried it by Himself. Shear exhaustion made it impossible for Him to carry it very far. Consider what He had already endured during the past fifteen hours; the tense atmosphere of the upper room, the betrayal of Judas, the agonies of Gethsemane, the desertion by His disciples, the torture of a totally hypocritical trial before the Sanhedrin, the mockery in the palace of Caiaphas, the denial by His most prominent disciple, the trial before an unjust judge, the pronunciation of the death sentence upon Him, the terrible ordeal of being scourged, and the abuse by the soldiers in the praetorian! Humanly speaking it was a wonder that He was able to carry it at all.

The soldiers feared that He might die under the load of His cross, which would prevent them from torturing Him further; so they exercised their right of requisitioning or “making demands on” people and compelled a man called Simon of Cyrene to carry His cross for Him. He was just passing by; he did not know what was happening, and did not hold an opinion on the matter. Not much is known of this man, but he had two sons, Alexander and Rufus, who were probably believers and became well-known Christians (if Rufus is the same one mentioned in  [7]Romans 16:13). He may have been black but was more probably a Hellenistic Jew. As a Jew he probably was in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover feast and to worship at the Temple; there was even a Cyrenian synagogue in Jerusalem ( [8]Acts 6:9).

The cross was a very strenuous and cumbersome load: but the man, who carried it for a few minutes, had the honor of having his name recorded in the book of God. He began the day as an obscure person; but after this, wherever this gospel is preached, this story will be told for a memorial to him. And today, in like manner, when we are afflicted and yet bear our cross joyfully it yields for us a crown of glory.

(Luke 23:27) And there followed him a great  [9]company of people, and of women, which also  [10]bewailed and  [11]lamented him.

The spectacle of Jesus, in His damaged and weakened condition carrying a Cross, drew a great crowd, which was to be expected at executions, especially of those that have been well-known persons of distinction.  The preceding verses and especially verse 23, may have left the impression that just about everyone in Jerusalem was opposed to Jesus, but here we discover that was not the case at all; and that A great company of people (mostly women, followed him, some out of pity, others out of curiosity, but they (as well as those that were his friends and acquaintance) also bewailed and lamented him. There were many that harassed and despised him, yet there were some that loved Him, and pitied Him, and were sorry for Him. The suffering and dying of the Lord Jesus may have stirred the natural affections in many that bewailed Christ that do not believe in him, and lamented Him that do not love him.

(Luke 23:28) But Jesus turning unto them said,  [12]Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children.

A crowd of sympathetic followers, mostly women, wept for Jesus as He was led away. There is nothing to suggest that these women were disciples; they may have been professional mourners who were prominent at most Jewish funerals or perhaps they loved and respected Him and were truly sorrowing over His plight. Addressing the women in the crowd as Daughters of Jerusalem, He told them that they should not pity Him but should pity themselves. You would think He would be too concerned for His own situation to show concern for their tears. He turned to them, although they were strangers to him, and directed them not to weep for him, but for themselves. This does not mean that He faulted them for weeping, but that it was unnecessary; they should weep for themselves and for their children, because of the destruction that was coming upon Jerusalem, which some of them might live to see, or, at least, their children would.

Note, when we consider Christ crucified we ought to weep, not for him, but for ourselves. We must not be affected by the death of Christ as we would be with the death of a common person or of a friend. The death of Christ was unique; it was His victory and triumph over His enemies; it was our deliverance and the purchase of eternal life for us. And therefore, we should not weep for him, but for our own sins, and the sins of our children. It was our sins that were the cause of His death. Our tears should be for the miseries we will bring upon ourselves, if we refuse His love, and reject his grace. When our Christian loved ones and friends die, we have no reason to weep for them for they have entered into perfect rest and joy; but cry for ourselves and our children, who are left behind in a world of sins, and sorrows, and worries.

(Luke 23:29) For,  [13]behold, the  [14]days are coming, in the which they shall say,  [15]Blessed are the  [16]barren, and the wombs that never  [17]bare, and the  [18]paps which never gave  [19]suck.

The Lord Jesus gives them a particular reason why they should weep for themselves and for their children: "Fore behold sad times are coming upon your city; it will be destroyed, and you will be caught up in the destruction.”  When these Daughters of Jerusalem expressed their grief with tears, he told them that there was something coming for them to cry over. He was referring to the terrible destruction that would descend on Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The suffering and sorrow of those days would be so great that barren women, who were at that time an object of contempt, would be considered especially fortunate.; and the next verse says, the horrors of the siege of Titus would be such that men would wish for the mountains to fall on them, and for the hills to cover them.

He had recently wept over Jerusalem, and now he asks them to weep over it. He knew about the suffering and killing that would occur; suffering from disease and starvation that accompanied the Roman siege and the killing of thousands of men, women and children when the Romans finally entered the city. Women with children who survived starvation would have their children ripped from their arms and sliced in two before they received the same end.

(Luke 23:30) Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us.

They would wish to be buried alive: They shall begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us, and to the hills, Cover us. They would desire to hide in the darkest caves, so that they might escape the calamities. They would be willing to be sheltered upon any terms, if they could escape the peril of being crushed to pieces. This is what would be expressed principally by the great and mighty men ([20]Revelation 6:16). Those that are not willing to flee to Christ for refuge, and put themselves under His protection, will cry out to hills and mountains to shelter them from His wrath, but it will be in vein.

(Luke 23:31) For if they do these things in a  [21]green tree, what shall be done in the  [22]dry?

Some think that this saying by the Lord Jesus is borrowed from  [23]Ezekiel 20:47-49, and verse 47 in particular.  He has been talking about the destruction of Jerusalem, which the Jews by putting Him to death brought upon themselves: "If they (the Jews, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem) do these things to a green tree, that is, if they abuse an innocent and excellent person for His good works, how do they expect God to deal with them, since they have made themselves into a dry tree, a corrupt and wicked generation that is good for nothing? If this is their sin, what do you think their punishment will be?”

Others think the Lord is talking about the Romans: "If they (the Romans, their judges, and their soldiers) abuse me, without any provocation and who is like a green tree to them, what will God do to Jerusalem and the Romans, who torment and torture Him and make themselves like a dry tree?”

Now, let’s look at this through the eyes of our Redeemer; "If God will allow me to suffer like this because I am made a sacrifice for sin, what will he do with sinners themselves?” The very best saints, when compared with Christ, are like a dry tree; if He suffered, why would they think that they will not suffer?

(Luke 23:32) And there were also two other,  [24]malefactors, led with him to be put to death.

Doctor Luke points out that Jesus was not alone as He was led (or driven) to Calvary. There were two others, malefactors, led with him to the place of execution. It is probable that they were under the sentence of death for a long time and finally they are to be executed on this day, which was probably one excuse for being in such a hurry in the prosecution of Christ; that He and these two malefactors might be executed together, which added to His humiliation.

(Luke 23:33) And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.
(Matthew 27:33) And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull,
(Mark 15:22) And they bring him unto the place Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull.
(John 19:17) And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha:

The Spirit of God describes the crucifixion simply and unemotionally. He does not dwell on the extreme cruelty of this mode of execution, or the terrible suffering it involved. There is no lingering over the terrible details. There is just the simple statement, “there they crucified Him.” It was about 9:00 a.m., and He remained on the cross until 3:00 p.m. Once again Stewart’s remarks are to the point: “That the Messiah should die was hard enough to credit, but that He should die such a death was utterly beyond belief. Yet so it was. Everything which Christ ever touched—the cross included—he adorned and transfigured and haloed with splendor and beauty; but let us never forget that it was out of  the appalling depths of pain and suffering that he has set the cross on high.”

O teach me what it meaneth
That cross uplifted high
With One, the Man of Sorrows,
Condemned to bleed and die.
—Lucy A. Bennett

The place of execution was called Calvary  (from the Latin for “Skull,” the Hebrew word is Golgotha). Perhaps the configuration of the land resembled a skull, or perhaps it was given that name because it was the place of death, and a skull is often used as a symbol of death.

The exact location of Calvary is unknown today, but there are several places for the site that have been offered by theologians.
1. The traditional site, at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, is inside the walls of the city; its advocates contend that it was outside the walls at the time of Christ. The Gospels mark it outside the city, but the location of the ancient walls cannot be conclusively determined, since Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70.
2. Another supposed site is Gordon’s Calvary, north of the city walls and adjoining a garden area. But many think that Gordon’s Calvary and the Garden Tomb was the location because it gives a better picture of what the site is presumed to be like in the early centuries.

It was a shameful place to die, which added to the degradation of his sufferings, but it is significant, since there he triumphed over death. He was crucified. His hands and feet were nailed to the cross as it was lying on the ground, and then it was lifted up and dropped into some socket made to receive it. This was a painful and shameful death—perhaps more than any other. The fact that he was crucified between two thieves, made it appear as if he was the worst of the three. Therefore he was not only treated as a transgressor, but numbered with them, the worst of them.

(Matthew 27:34) They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink.
(Mark 15:23) And they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but he received it not.

The soldiers offered Jesus wine mingled with myrrh. This would have acted as a drug, dulling His senses. Jesus refused to take it. For Him it was necessary to bear the full load of man’s sins with no impairment of His senses, no alleviation of His pain.


___________________________________Special Notes_________________________________________

  [1]to seize; seized
  [2]CYRENE [sigh REE neh] — a city on the north coast of Africa founded by Dorian Greeks about 630 B.C. Cyrene was later the capital of the Roman province of Cyrenaica (ancient and modern Libya). Midway between Carthage and Alexandria—about 160 kilometers (100 miles) northeast of modern Benghazi—the city was built on a beautiful tableland nearly 610 meters (2,000 feet) above sea level.
Less than 16 kilometers (10 miles) from the sea, Cyrene attracted travelers and commerce of every kind. The city was renowned as an intellectual center; Carneades, the founder of the new Academy at Athens, and Aristippus, the Epicurean philosopher and friend of Socrates, were among its distinguished citizens. The city surrendered to Alexander the Great in 331 B.C. and passed into the hands of Rome in 96 B.C.
Although Cyrene is not mentioned in the Old Testament, it was an important city in New Testament times because of its large Jewish population. A Cyrenian named Simon was pressed into service to carry the cross of Jesus (Matt. 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26). Cyrenians were present at Pentecost (Acts 2:10) and were converted and subsequently scattered in the persecution that followed Stephen’s death (Acts 11:19–20).
Once a very populous city, Cyrene declined for several reasons. In a Jewish revolt in A.D. 115–116, over 200,000 inhabitants of the city were killed in the rioting. A disastrous earthquake in A.D. 365 contributed to its further decline. With the Arab invasion of A.D. 642, the city came to an end. The site is now a wasteland occupied by Bedouins.
  [3]“the country” in contrast to the town
  [4]Put on, set on
  [6]Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. 13Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.

  [7]Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine.
  [8]Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen. 
  [9]a great number, of men or things
  [10]beating the breast, as a token of grief
  [11]to mourn,
  [12]denotes collectively all its female inhabitants and citizens
  [13]See, look
  [14]On a day still in the future
  [16]of woman who does not conceive
  [17]of women giving birth to children
  [18]the breasts
  [19]to give the breast, give suck, to suckle
  [20]And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?
  [21]full of sap
  [22]wasted, withered
  [23]And say to the forest of the south, Hear the word of the LORD; Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will kindle a fire in thee, and it shall devour every green tree in thee, and every dry tree: the flaming flame shall not be quenched, and all faces from the south to the north shall be burned therein.
  [24]Evil-doer, criminal

Do you have any questions or comments?

 Have you ever imagined living without criticism? Maybe you’ve thought greater success would usher in a life free of criticism. If either, or both, of these fantasies have crept through your mind, just think of Dr. Billy Graham. The good that God has delivered through this man is hard to fathom. Nonetheless, he has known criticism all of his life. In 1993, one fundamentalist leader said Dr. Graham “has done more harm to the cause of Christ than any other living man.” Doesn’t that make you feel better about the criticisms you’ve received lately?

New Man, March/April 1997, Cover Story

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