Do you sometimes feel the burden of the world is on your shoulders? Christ did! Yet how many professing Christians do you know who believe that Jesus “did it all” for us on the cross — that His sacrifice did away with God’s law and freed us from any responsibility to keep God’s commandments?
Millions of Christians believe that this is exactly what happened! But is that what God’s Word really says? Let’s see.
If Jesus did it all for us, then why does He require us, on the authority of the New Testament, to repent of our sins and obey the commandments (Acts 2:38, I John 2:3-4)? If there is no law, how could we be guilty of sins of which we must repent?
No, there is much we must do. Jesus’ sacrifice was only the beginning of God’s plan of salvation. We have a great responsibility to fulfill as a result of that sacrifice.
What we must do is captured for us in the example of Simon of Cyrene.
He carried the cross
Remember that Jesus was required to carry His own cross up the hill of Golgotha, and this after an unbelievably painful and exhausting nightlong scourging by Roman soldiers. The Greek word for “cross” can mean a straight tree without its branches, or a stake.
At one point along the path, which was lined with gaping spectators, Jesus may have stumbled under the heavy weight of His own crucifixion stake.
Perhaps He dropped to one knee and inhaled deeply, refilling His burning lungs, and attempted to reposition the heavy tree or stake so He could rise again and carry it on.
But the strength Jesus had enjoyed in much better times was sapped, His body critically injured and weakened by the vicious beating He had endured. Jesus no longer even looked like a human being (Isa. 52:14)!
A burly Roman officer standing nearby observed the impossibility of Jesus’ continuing with the cross and looked menacingly at the crowd, evaluating who might be able-bodied enough to be drafted to help the exhausted carpenter carry His death instrument.
Out of the hooting crowd the soldiers pulled Simon of Cyrene, probably a large, stocky farmer who had come in from the country to keep the Spring Holy Days. “You — yes, you!” one of the soldiers screamed. “Get over here and carry this stake!”
Simon probably was thinking: Why do they have to bother me? I don’t want anything to do with this business. What if they nail me to the stake instead of Him? Say, this is heavy. Wonder what He did to deserve this?
“Carry it!” the soldier bellowed. Simon swung it to his shoulders. Step after trudging step, he carried it out of the city gates and up the rounded hill to the top of Golgotha. There he quickly laid it down and melted into the crowd again (Matt. 27:32-33, Mark 15:21-22, Luke 23:26).
This had been a critical time in Simon’s life and a critical time for all of humanity. If Jesus had quit in those hours of great anguish and excruciating pain, we would not have a Savior!
By carrying Christ’s cross, Simon did, in type, what every one of us must do: become like Jesus Christ.
As Matthew 10:24-25 says: “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master.”
At first glance we might consider Simon to have been an innocent bystander. But was he? Not when one considers Romans 3:23 and 6:23. Notice what these verses tell us about the position in which all human beings find themselves:
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).
“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).
All of us, God says, have sinned — broken God’s perfect law — and brought on ourselves the penalty of eternal death.
But the death of Jesus Christ — who lived a perfect life as a human, who never committed a single sin and thus did not earn the death penalty for Himself — pays our death penalty for us.
That is, upon our repentance and turning to go the opposite way — to live God’s way instead of the sinful way we have been following — the way that produces death — God applies the sacrifice of Jesus Christ to our case and considers our penalty paid. We are justified by Jesus’ blood, and we shall be saved by Jesus’ life (Rom. 5:9).
But Jesus’ sacrifice, while it pays our penalty, does not remove all responsibility from us. There is still much God expects us to do. What parallel can we draw between Simon’s service and what God expects of us?
Our heavy responsibility
When Jesus walked the dusty roads of Galilee, many people followed. Some wanted to ask questions. Some wanted to see a spectacle. Some wanted to be fed. And a few were moved to accept Jesus’ teachings.
On one occasion, Jesus stopped and placed a heavy responsibility on the shoulders of this last group — the same responsibility He places on your shoulders today. You determine whether you will follow Jesus by these criteria:
“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate [love less by comparison] his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26-27).
Can Simon’s example be any plainer for us? Jesus bore His cross, the ultimate symbol for Christian persecution, to the death (Phil. 2:8). Simon, in type for us, helped bear the true Christian’s burden for and with Christ. Once freed from sin, we are to come out of this world and practice God’s way — to take on God’s very nature.
Can you do it? Can you bear the cross with Christ? Like Simon, you must. God has called you to do so. It wasn’t by your choice.
The life of a true Christian is not an easy one, but the alternative is the way of this Satan-inspired world, which is destined to perish (I John 2:15-17).
The rewards are fantastic — the gift is life eternal, forever sharing the wonderful challenge of eternity with Christ and God the Father, creating and sustaining throughout this great and, for now, unsearchable universe. It is your home-to-be!
But for now, there is work to be done here on this earth for the benefit of all mankind. And we need to roll up our sleeves and pitch in.
The job now
In Revelation 12:11 we find a three-part summary of what it takes for true Christians to follow Christ and to bear the burden: “And they overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.”
Through repentance, believing and obeying Christ’s commandments; God the Father then covers our sins with Christ’s blood.
2) Continue growing in grace and knowledge, while supporting the work of God.
3) Not loving our physical lives even to the point of death, should God require it. Like Jesus!
If you have repented, been baptized and truly have God’s Holy Spirit, God has set you free from the power sin had over you. As in the case of Barabbas, Jesus has died in your place.
Enter Simon of Cyrene’s example. If you are free, you will acknowledge the command from on high: You have an obligation to help carry Christ’s cross — the Christian burden. You have been drafted by God. You are to be like your Master.
Now carry it! There are many mockers in this world, but modern “Simons of Cyrene” are scarce (II Tim. 3:1-5, Matt. 9:36-38).