The Way Of Sorrow: How Far Did Jesus Carry The Cross?

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Published by Kimberly Wall

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Co-Founder, Disciple Group Leader, Author

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Most of us imagine the crucifixion as Jesus Christ being nailed to the cross, raised high, and abandoned to die. And while this is true, it is important to remember that Jesus was not only crucified; He was made to carry his cross over a great distance. Jesus cared so deeply about your salvation that He went above and beyond anything we could ever imagine.

Many of us have a hard time conceptualizing Christ’s self-sacrificing love[1]. The total distance Jesus carried the cross is only one example of the kind of exact information that is missing from the biblical stories of his crucifixion.

What Does The Bible Say About Jesus Carrying His Cross?

The crucifixion of Jesus is described in all four gospels, each of which focuses on a distinct element of the event. When we combine them, we get a more comprehensive image.

Over two thousand years ago, Jesus was sent into the world. The humility of His birth was a foreshadowing of the lowliness of His life on earth. Jesus was in His thirties when He was taken to Pilate’s palace, where the governor had Him condemned to death.

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him.

Matthew 27:27 (ESV)

Before being led out to His execution, the hostile crowd ridiculed Him by dressing Him in a purple garment (probably faded crimson) and a crown of thorns. On the road to Golgotha, the soldiers forced Simon of Cyrene to help Jesus carry His cross (or, according to other accounts, to bear it for him).

Jesus Christ was probably fairly weak after being scourged and tortured; the fact that He could not even carry His own cross was an additional humiliation He had to endure.

And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him. And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull). And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.

— Mark 15:20–23 (ESV)

And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus.

— Luke 23:26 (ESV)

The Roman governor “delivered him over to them to be crucified,” John writes in Chapter 19:16–17. They dragged Jesus away, bearing his own cross to Golgotha (which is the Aramaic name for “The Place of a Skull”).

How Far Did Jesus Carry The Cross?

The Way of Suffering (Via Dolorosa) is a well-known route in history that many people believe Jesus took. Following this path takes you from the Antonia Fortress, where Jesus was sentenced to death by Pontius Pilate, through the Old City, and towards the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where He was crucified and buried.

Jesus (together with Simon of Cyrene) walked at least a tenth of a mile (600 meters) but was probably humiliated by being led on a longer route. Contrary to popular belief and the more traditional route of Via Dolorosa, modern archaeology has uncovered evidence that Jesus was condemned outside the Praetorium on the southwest side of Jerusalem before being led to Golgotha for his crucifixion.

The areas acknowledged by the Franciscans tasked with protecting the sacred places in 1342 served as the basis for this distance. As a consequence, several locations in the Holy Land that were discovered (and are still being discovered) include those where He met His mother, Mary; the spot where Jesus spoke to several women in Jerusalem; the site of His crucifixion; and where Jesus met Simon of Cyrene.

The Bible scholar estimates that Jesus walked carrying the cross for three hours, beginning somewhere around the third hour. This suggests that Jesus also hung there for roughly the same amount of time until He died at the ninth hour, 3 p.m.

rocky pathway shot at dusk

The Importance Of Jesus’ Journey With The Cross

One of the major tenets of Christianity is the cross of Jesus, and the significance of His suffering and death on it cannot be overstated.

Even though the Roman soldiers were hellbent on humiliating and punishing Jesus to his breaking point, they nonetheless had Simon of Cyrene bear the cross on behalf of Christ. This, scholars believed, had a purpose. Simon was crucial in the events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, as mentioned in the Scripture.

This is an example of God’s revealed will. God’s purposefulness suggests that He directed the soldiers to choose Simon from the throng and urge him to bear Jesus’ cross on the way to Golgotha. God is the Maker who, as mentioned in Colossians 1:16 and Psalm 55:22, bears all of humanity’s burdens; thus, it is crucial to keep in mind that Jesus’ second name is Emmanuel, a word that means “God with Us.

Taking these ideas into account, it becomes clear that Simon of Cyrene’s act of carrying Jesus’ cross was a vital demonstration of the spirit of humility. Even though Jesus’ crucifixion was an act to shame Him, Simon chose to participate in the agony rather than observe it by bearing Christ’s burden on the walk to Golgotha.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all give the impression Simon was forced into carrying the cross after Jesus fell. It may be symbolic of the fact that most Christians are unwilling to take up their crosses voluntarily.

Christ’s suffering was crucial because it led to the realization of a prophecy, as described in Isaiah 53:10 and Philippians 2:8. By the time the Roman authorities forced Simon to bear the cross, Jesus was severely weak and in agonizing pain.

Matthew 26:37–39 suggests that Jesus called out to the Father for aid, pleaded with God, and wondered whether God would allow the “cup” (tribulations) to pass Him according to His will. Simon’s hand of assistance may have symbolized God’s affection for Jesus Christ. This was one of the ways God tried to ease Jesus’ suffering while He was on earth. It’s a sign of God’s hand in history, too.

With Simon carrying the cross for Jesus’ sake, Luke 14:27 tells Christians that following Jesus also means bearing our own cross in life, despite the difficulties and temptations that we may encounter along the path.

Jesus carried our sins to the cross and died for them. The nails symbolize the emotional and mental toll that Jesus paid for our sins. Jesus paid a spiritual death for our sins, and His blood is a symbol of that. The dirt symbolizes the spiritual foundation on which Jesus died to bear our sins. As a result, Jesus’ sacrifice was complete and unfathomable to human understanding.

Lessons We Can Learn From Jesus’ Journey With The Cross

In addition to the physical suffering of being nailed to the cross, Jesus also bore the spiritual burden of all of our sins.

Jesus’ death on the cross was an immeasurable act of love because He took on Himself the spiritual suffering that we deserved to spend eternity in hell enduring. Everyone who has ever lived or ever will live must make restitution for their misdeeds, both in the past and in the future.

stone pathway between two buildings

Conclusion

Crucifixion is a horrible way to put an end to someone’s life. Even more frightening is the fact that Jesus’ actual distance traveled while bearing the cross is unclear. He may have carried it the entire distance from Jerusalem to Golgotha, or it may have been only a short distance.

We can’t even begin to fathom the magnitude of what happened on the cross. The burden of Jesus’ crucifixion is beyond our comprehension, and it may remain so forever. However, we may take comfort in the fact that Jesus bore the whole weight of the cross for our sake, His children, and we can honor and revere the great love that Jesus has for us.

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