Carrying Someone Else’s Cross: John 19:17

Focus Passage: John 19:17 (NCV)

17 Carrying his own cross, Jesus went out to a place called The Place of the Skull, which in the Hebrew language is called Golgotha.

Read John 19:17 in context and/or in other translations on!

On the road to Golgotha, while Jesus was traveling there with His cross, I am amazed by how the different gospel writers describe this scene.

Matthew draws our attention to a bystander turned celebrity by saying, “As the soldiers were going out of the city with Jesus, they forced a man from Cyrene, named Simon, to carry the cross for Jesus.” (Matthew 27:32)

Mark also draws our attention to this bystander by saying, “A man named Simon from Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was coming from the fields to the city. The soldiers forced Simon to carry the cross for Jesus.” (Mark 15:21)

Luke gives a third account of this bystander’s actions by saying, “As they led Jesus away, Simon, a man from Cyrene, was coming in from the fields. They forced him to carry Jesus’ cross and to walk behind him.” (Luke 23:26)

But John says something completely different. In His gospel we read, “Carrying his own cross, Jesus went out to a place called The Place of the Skull, which in the Hebrew language is called Golgotha.” (John 19:17)

John’s unique, and very clear description prompts me to wonder something. Of all the gospel writers, John was there. While Peter followed Jesus to the courtyard of the high priest, only the unnamed disciple who John includes in his gospel was present. Many scholars believe this unnamed disciple to be John himself. Matthew had run away, and Mark and Luke both were dependant on the witness of other people who were present.

Perhaps John followed outside of direct view of Jesus, while Matthew, Mark, and Luke have the more correct record of what happened because they relied on closer eye-witness sources. But maybe John says what he said to draw a point: Jesus carried His own cross.

Maybe Jesus carried the crossbeam while Simon carried the much heavier upright plank, or maybe Simon helped Jesus carry the cross for much of the way forward.

Simon was forced into the unique position to be the one to help Jesus bear His cross. Not only was this a once in a lifetime experience, Simon lived an incredible example of what Jesus did for each of us. While Jesus technically carried His own cross, it was really the cross meant for you and me. Jesus didn’t deserve a cross, but He did choose it for us. Carrying another person’s cross is a powerful metaphor, and what Simon did for Jesus, Jesus does for each one of us who deserve death for our sins.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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