Adding Insult to the Agony!
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.
And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. And it was the third hour when they crucified him. And the inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left.
And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!” So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also reviled him. Mark 15:21-32
On this Maundy (Holy) Thursday, we walk alongside Jesus as he ascends to Golgotha, also known as the Place of the Skull. The former is a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew proper name for a hill sitting outside the city wall, and the latter is the Greek, Κρανίου τόπος (craniou topos), literally translates as “cranium place.”
First, we meet a Cyrene (modern Libya) named Simon. It has always struck me that this man bears the same name as Peter (remember, Peter is a nickname). Simon is forced into carrying the cross, as it is likely that Jesus is half dead at this point. On the other hand, Peter is off licking his wounds of denial. We also get this odd detail that he has two sons, Alexander and Rufus. Paul greets a man Rufus and his mother in Romans 16:13 and calls Rufus’s mother his own. Is it possible that Simon and his family became well-known followers of Jesus Christ? Intriguing!
At 9:00 AM, they strip Jesus of his clothing, and…
“they crucify him”
Please stop for sixty seconds or more, and ponder those three words!
Thus languishes the King of the Jews on a cross between two criminals. I wonder if James and John still wished to be to his right and left?
Finally, the taunt of the passers-by is that claim never proven by the Kangaroo Court; “destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days. Then they challenge him to save himself to come off the cross that he could not carry by himself. The chief priests and scribes join in on the mocking, and so do the Roman soldiers!
All this signals the painful truth; Jesus is separated from all human companionship!
O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,
now scornfully surrounded with thorns, thine only crown!
O sacred Head, what glory, what bliss till now was thine!
Yet, though despised and gory, I joy to call thee mine.
Amen!“O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” by Bernard of Clairvaux