Christ In His Suffering, Trial, and Crucified by Klaas Schilder: Schilder, Klaas - Vol 3 - Christ Crucified: 02. Chapter 2: Christ’s Right of Requisition Completely Denied

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Christ In His Suffering, Trial, and Crucified by Klaas Schilder: Schilder, Klaas - Vol 3 - Christ Crucified: 02. Chapter 2: Christ’s Right of Requisition Completely Denied



TOPIC: Schilder, Klaas - Vol 3 - Christ Crucified (Other Topics in this Collection)
SUBJECT: 02. Chapter 2: Christ’s Right of Requisition Completely Denied

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C H A P T E R T W O

Christ’s Right of Requisition Completely Denied

And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross.

—Mat_27:32.

IN the Heidelberg Catechism the church confesses it to be the will of God that His Christians “be instructed not by dumb images but by the living preaching of His Word.”

If ever the emphasis of this statement is to impress our conscience it must be now as Christ takes the way to Golgotha, the via dolorosa. The Roman Catholic church against which the statement of the Catechism was directed in the first place has, so to speak, placed a row of images along both sides of the via dolorosa. Some of these are dumb images and some of them are speaking images, some are fixed and some are moveable, some are such as are found regularly in all Roman Catholic churches—the well known ‘‘stations” of the cross—and some of them arc more or less legendary in character. And Romish poets and parish preachers, each in their own manner, thereupon proceed to give the commentary or illustration of these. So it goes: illustration upon illustration, commentary upon commentary.

Now it would certainly be arrogance in us if we were to maintain that the basic fault, the characteristic fault in Christian thinking which has conceived and drawn up all these images had entirely been kept out of the domain of Protestantism. On the contrary, the Protestant spirit also, even the orthodox spirit, has never completely emancipated itself from this characteristically human tendency towards concrete representation. The longing to give external shape and form to spiritual things which accounts for all these images moves every human spirit. But the incentive which causes these to arise is not one conceived entirely by the Spirit, the Spirit of God, and it is one which “gives expression only to that which it has heard.”

Therefore we must take special pains beforehand to arm ourselves against this danger, and to set ourselves against it. We must be on guard also as we study Simon of Cyrene on the road which leads from the gate of Jerusalem to the hill of the cross. We must be on guard against this yearning for concrete representation as we pause to consider Simon, who had to meet Jesus of Nazareth, and who bore the cross for Him. Simon of Cyrene — after that dark Friday he has always been included in that rather long, time-honored procession which the “edifying imagination”—the author of those images just referred to—likes to present as walking behind the cross-bearing Christ. In that procession there are others who accompany Him; there are the women of whom the Bible itself speaks, and who are therefore in no sense legendary; but there is also that long series of persons created by fiction among whom Veronica is especially prominent. All these according to the Christian, or better, according to the erstwhile Christian narratives of the memorabilia of the Great Friday, formed a part of the procession that followed Jesus. For it has long been the custom to surround the somewhat colorless picture of Christ in isolation with a rather dazzling frame. Veronica is the one who with her kerchief dried the bleeding and perspiring face of Christ —and as a sad reward always preserved in that kerchief an impression of the bleeding face.

But that is but a legend, someone says. Pass on to a more beneficial message. But—and that is why we mention it here—that very remark indicates the direction which the old Christian fantasy wanted to pursue (or it did have a purpose in mind). It wanted to put Christ, our cross-bearer, in a congenial setting of warm and solacing sympathy. Erring Christian feeling wanted to burn incense for the Jesus who was thought unworthy of a sweet smelling offering by the priests of His own people. This took place some time after the reading of Paul’s letters, and in this way Simon of Cyrene was also given a place in that congenial surrounding of sympathy which was created for Jesus. He became involved in it, and he did not know himself how this happened to take place. See how good, how amiable it is that sons of the same Christian house dwell in unity with Jesus, there where the ardor of love is never extinguished. The fragrance of love cannot but influence everyone, just as the oil which dripped from Simon’s head saturated his beard and workman’s clothes. Blessed be Simon: he bore the cross of Jesus.

You see that they want to explain Simon’s bearing of the cross in two ways; or, better, they wish to derive a double conclusion from it. First, that the piteous Jesus certainly was in a most miserable situation. You can see that: He could not even carry His cross any farther. Second, that just at the right time a few sweet drops of consolation were poured into Jesus’ bitter cup of passion, solacing drops prepared by the love of Simon of Cyrene, and by those others whom history or imagination has placed in His retinue. All these others came after him. After him— if you stumble over that detail, we will do something to change it. You should not make such trivial criticisms.

What these people want to do is to see in the assumed or protested love of Simon of Cyrene a kind of continuation of the anointing with which Mary served Christ in the beginning of the passion week as a preparation for His burial. Broken alabaster boxes are well worth preserving; you can always squeeze a little more out of them. Besides, Judas is dead; he cannot spoil such ministrations with his calculating criticism. Musicians and poets and preachers consequently whisper soft words of comfort into the ears of the suffering Christ Jesus. They would indeed have helped Him in the anxiousness of His death if they had not been born too late. They tell Him: Have a little patience, Jesus, for the same love which gave you the foal of an ass on the basis of your own right of requisition when you came to ride triumphantly into the city, still surrounds you. The same willingness to serve which on the basis of your own right of requisition prepared a room in which you might eat the Passover and prepare the first holy supper is still here and would serve you again. Look, look yonder, the father of two Christian sons is putting his shoulder to your cross.

Nevertheless, we would posit certain other ideas overagainst these. In the first place we would turn that very carefully developed picture of the “service” of Simon of Cyrene and the drift of the narrative of the other incidents surrounding him in a different direction, by the matter-of-fact remark that we know preciously little about the man, and about the service he performed. And to that we would add that the appearance of Simon of Cyrene in no sense constitutes a hiatus, a pause, in the suffering of Christ. On the contrary, that which the Saviour experienced because of Simon of Cyrene aggravated His suffering, and made His humiliation more conspicuous to the eyes of men.

Yes, we know very little about the person of Simon of Cyrene. The Bible tells us that as the sad procession proceeded on the way of death, it did not take very long before the cross of Jesus, and that by the compulsion of the Roman soldiers, was laid upon a man who just happened to step out of the field, a man called Simon of Cyrene. We are told in old books that there was a regulation which had it that a man who was condemned to be crucified, as a general rule, had to carry his own cross. Whether this regulation stipulated that the whole, heavy cross had to be carried by the condemned person, or only the crossbeam, or possibly only the vertical beam, we cannot say. As a matter of fact, the exact shape of the cross is unknown. Three opinions are defended. The one opinion has it that the cross formed the figure X; the other maintains that it had the shape of a T, the third defends the position usually taken — and the one which seems the most plausible — namely, that the cross had the form of the figure †. But we shall say nothing further about this particular. It becomes apparent that Christ could no longer support the cross. If we remember the physical and spiritual exhaustion which must have been His as a result not only of the night which had just passed, but also of the preliminary scourging, and of the whole of the fatiguing and exhausting suffering which ravaged His body in those last hours, we can easily understand that He could not support the burden. And we remember the condition of His physical exhaustion again as we think of the fact that the Saviour is the one who died first of the three crucified together.

There are some who think of a further particular in this connection. They suggest that for a definite reason the high priests thought it unwise to have Jesus bear His own cross. These drove their legal formalism so far that they took exception to having a son of Abraham supporting a burden on a day of the feast, for the law of the Sabbath, which also applied to feast days, forbade the bearing of burdens at such times. To this hypothesis another is generally added: namely, that the murderers crucified with Jesus did not bear their own crosses. It is possible, they say, that the vertical pillar had already been placed in the ground for them beforehand. After all, their execution was not an unexpected one. But that of Jesus was an unexpected one, and the cross of Jesus, because of the haste which had characterized the trial throughout, still had to be specially brought to the place of execution. What shall we say of these things? The other possibility might also hold: namely, that the execution of the others was advanced somewhat now that Jesus was to be executed. We have not the necessary information to decide definitely which construction is correct. It seems to us that the explanation just presented is a highly unlikely one. Be these things as they may, the fact is that Simon, who was just returning from the field, is coerced by the soldiers to carry the cross of Jesus. It may be that this took place very close to the gate of the city.

The Bible tells us that this man came out of Cyrene. Cyrene is one of the most prominent places in Lybia, of the so-called Lybia Cyrenaica which lay off the north coast of Africa. We know that the city of Cyrene maintained all kinds of relations with Jerusalem. Business relations were maintained between Cyrene and the Jews. Besides, we know that for some time a large number of Jews had been living in Cyrene. Many Jews had emigrated to Lybia during the reign of Ptolomy I; in addition, many Jews had gone there from Alexandria. To some extent these Jews in the alien land had remained faithful to the religion of their forefathers; but, on the other hand, many were absorbed by the heathen culture.

Who, now, was Simon? Was he a Jew who had come to Jerusalem with the special intent of celebrating the Passover? We remember, for instance, that on the day of Pentecost many religious Jews had come from Lybia also. Or was he one of those many farmers who after they had made a neat little sum in the foreign country, had come to spend their last days in the shadow of David’s grave, and of the temple of the fathers? That is possible, but such comfortably retired folk as a general rule are well advanced in years, and who would constrain an old man to carry the heavy cross? Can it be that the man was neither a Jew, nor a relative of the Jews, but an out and out heathen, who had unwittingly strayed into the company of all those celebrating Jews, but who had nothing to do with the celebration, the temple, or the Jewish customs?

You see that there are several possibilities. All of these have their defenders. But there is another question. What did Simon intend to do? One says that he was a Jew, living in Jerusalem, and just returning from his labor in the field in order to buy or sell something in the city. No, another scornfully replies, he was coming from his work this early in the morning, because he wanted to celebrate the feast; and he still had to make all kinds of preparations for the Passover meal. True, protests a third, but the man does not give you an impression of such piety, for he was coming from the field, and must have been working on that field. And that on the feast day—Sabbath desecrater! Now, now, interrupts a fourth, you must not take that so seriously. It may be that he had not even worked in the field. It is possible that the word translated field should be translated estate. He had not been working, but had simply gone on this off-day to see how things were getting along on his “villa.” And this opinion, in turn, is supported by a fifth contender who maintains that even clothes, on which the earmarks of field work were plainly perceptible, are not convincing evidence of the fact that he had desecrated the law of the Sabbath on the feast day. For in the case of many a well-circumscribed instance the work of the Sabbath day or the feast day might still be so extensive that one could not possibly appear in his “Sunday-best,” if you will forgive us for the anachronism.[1]

[1] See Strack-Billerbeck, Kommentaar, II, pp. 828, 829.

Thus the opinions differ. However, there are many who think they have a rather good reason for thinking that Simon of Cyrene was indeed a pagan. “If the supposition to the effect that of all those people in that neighborhood at the time Simon was selected because he was a stranger, as was very likely obvious from his color — a stranger, lest the people be offended — we can deduce from it that Simon was not a Jew, but an alien, very likely a Moor.”[2]

[2] Grosheide, Kommentaar op Mattkeus, p. 348.

How little, how very little, therefore, we know of Simon’s past. The same is true of his future. The same erstwhile Christian legends to which we referred a while ago probably account for the rumor that he later became a Christian. We do, however, have to acknowledge that this notion is more than an edifying guess. The Bible tells us that Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus. Now the special mention of these two names points to the fact that these persons were well known and were men of good repute in the circle of the Christians. Of good repute, we say, for there is not a single reason to identify this Alexander with the heretic named in Act_19:33, or in 1Ti_1:20, or in 2Ti_4:14. And Rufus is doubtless the same man whom Paul names in Rom_16:13 and whom he graciously greets. According to this interpretation, then, the two sons of Simon must have occupied a place of honor in the Christian church. And that makes the supposition that Simon embraced the faith or, at least, that he was not antagonistic to it, a plausible one.

Nevertheless we must not blink at the fact that the person of Simon, even though we regard him as the father of those two well known Christians, remains hidden in obscurity. He is shrouded in the same kind of darkness as are those two others whose services were claimed during the passion week of Christ. We pointed those out before. In the first volume of this work[1] we have seen that a request came to a man to let the Saviour use his colt in order that He might ride into the city on it, and that a similar requisitory request came to the family who had to prepare the room of the Passover for Jesus. Of these people, too, we knew very little. We were not even sure that they were friends of Jesus; it might also have been that they were just in a general sense sympathetic to Christ and His disciples. Very often the Bible lets the people who surround Christ stand in semi-obscurity in order to keep the limelight full on Christ Himself. Indeed, it is even their duty to stay in the dark. For His sake. And is ours the right, then, because of our avid longing for a treasury of Christian legend, to give a greater amount of credence to things which God has intentionally left unrevealed than these things actually deserve? Surely, that is just another way of “kicking against the pricks.” No, let us be on guard against soiling and defiling the way of Christ’s worst and most extreme necessity with our vain fantasies. Good Friday is too good for guess work.

[1] Christ in His Suffering, pp. 106 (Chapter 7) and 150 (Chapter 10).

Yes, there is a great difference between the Christian imagination of old times, as it worked out its ideas in directions suggested above, on the one hand, and the astonishing fantasies of the so-called religio-historical school, on the other.[2] At bottom all of those fantasies, let them differ from each other as much as they may, are a sinful activity, for they oppose an erotic or esthetic[3] emphasis to the account of the most bloody reality.

We do not know Simon, and we will never know him. Whether he lived on a “villa,” was a farmer or a peasant, was of the black race or of the brown, whether he lived in Jerusalem or merely tarried there, whether he took the cross upon his shoulders willingly or resisted the coercion of the soldiers—these are all things we do not know, and we do not wish to act as though we knew them.

[2] These have made Simon of Cyrene the image of Kurenaios. This is the Greek name for Bostes, who is a charioteer, who bears a sickle in his hand, and, accordingly, is supposed to be returning from the field. This, as you see at once, is a figure borrowed from the astronomical world.

[3] There are still others who think of Simon of Cyrene as a symbol of the Greek Hercules.

What, then, do we know with certainty? We can answer that question the moment we fasten our thoughts again upon the main thing; that is, upon Christ, the Man of sorrows Himself, In this matter our thoughts have a resting place in the Greek word which is used in the text of the gospel by way of indicating that the soldiers compelled Simon to bear the cross of Jesus. The word which the gospel uses in this connection is found only twice in the New Testament. In both cases it can be translated as a coercive demand made upon a subordinate by an authority of the government or at least by someone who regards himself as a superior. The Greek word used comes from the Persian. It is derived from the renowned postal service of the earlier Persians. In the interest of a speedy disposition of the mails these Persians demanded that men and horses be claimed at any time for carrying the post from one stage to another. From that origin the word began to be used for broader activities. Later it is used for all kinds of requisitory activity by the government such as even we know it in connection with the mobilization of troops and the requisition of property in time of war. It can also refer to the statute labor of feudal times. Christ Himself uses the word in a related sense when in St. Matthew Mat_5:41 He speaks of people who compel another to go a mile with them. And it is in this sense that Simon of Cyrene is required by the military hand of Rome to give his services.

That is about as much as we know with certainty. It may be that this strongly suggestive word points to the fact that Simon was an alien. Especially if we remember that the chief priests, as we observed, were a part of the procession, and were partly in command of it. It is very likely that this coercion upon which they insist would not apply to a Jew but to a colored man. He would be good enough for that. Be that as it may, the element of a coercive request, of requisition on the part of the government, is definitely connoted by the word used. And if we cling to that it will become evident to us how deeply this humiliation cuts into the passion of Christ Jesus.

Requisition, we know, is a demand by the government, a demand made upon a person’s property, upon his time, upon his will, or upon his person. And we remember that the account of Jesus’ passion began with the phenomenon of requisition. We have already recalled that fact. In passing we mentioned that Christ, in the full consciousness of the fact that He was the King of the city and the absolute owner of everything in it, exercised the right of laying claim—no milder phrase will do—to the foal of an ass first, and a room in which to keep the Passover next. Yes, in Jerusalem. That was the place of the great king who came to you in the name of the Lord, and who knew that. There, Jerusalem, your King came, and He knew that He was the King before God. There your King came; and also as a prophet He troubled Himself by that public requisition of the foal of an ass to vividly demonstrate the prerogatives of a king. Those of you who recall what we said before[1] about the “necessary circumlocution” which Christ described by way of impressing His prerogative of requisition upon the consciousness of the people and by way of demanding an unconditional acknowledgment of that right, will feel at once that this particular is of great significance in the passion story. For now a stark contrast is set up between the beginning of the passion week and its tragic conclusion. The very gate out of which Jesus is being thrown at present is the same through which, not very long ago, He triumphantly entered into the city on the foal of an ass which He had claimed. Jerusalem—the song echoed in His soul—thy King cometh. The same city which no longer thinks Him worthy of a place within its walls once had to offer Him a room in which He could institute His holy supper. It had to offer Him the place which was to be the birthplace of His world-vanquishing work, of the formation of the church, of the conquest of the pseudo-religion and pseudo-culture of paganism and Judaism. For that is what the place would become by means of the liturgy of the Christian supper. Jerusalem—the song echoed in His soul—thy Priest cometh. Judas found the room very small, and altogether too peaceful. But He heard storms in the offing: storms of Pentecost, reformations, thunderings, trumpetings, and the sound of many instruments. Yes, those were His two acts of requisition. They had presented themselves to Him. At the time He had felt very strong. These acts of requisition were functions of His Messianic consciousness. In the first of them Christ asserted Himself as the king (remember the foal of the ass); but in the second the message of His kingship was developed in a priestly direction. As the High Priest of the confession which gives everything it has to give, He demanded the room of the Passover, in order that in it He might give away the holy supper for all of God’s defeated people.

[1] Christ in His Suffering, especially Chapter 7: p. 100.

Draw the threads together now. Here are two acts of requisition, the one kingly, the other priestly. The conclusion of both was that by means of them He displayed Himself to His people as the Priest-King, as the fulfillment of that Joshua who, according to the word of Zechariah, was the type of Christ Himself.

Joshua, the Priest-King,—do you remember that still? We paused not long ago[2] to study the fact that Christ knew Himself to be the fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah 6. In the prophetic vision the faithful Joshua stood as a priest and king at the same time, and as such the type of the Christ of God. Now this Christ, whose last labor of passion again and again was determined by the prophecy of Zechariah,[3] saw and recognized Himselfas the Priest-King, and saw Himself as such before His name was coupled with that of Barabbas on one and the same ballot. Moreover, in the full consciousness that He was the true and the complete Priest-King Christ made His demands during the last week of His passion. He did this fully aware of the fact that as such He was being completely faithful to the trend of prophecy. He did not make His requisitions according to the cruel law of Saul, who made his demands for purposes of personal aggrandizement. Nor did He insist upon His requests according to the wicked notions of David, who thought himself a sultan as he passionately proceeded to count the people. Nor did Christ make His demands according to the display of power characteristic of Solomon whose taxing of the people displeased them greatly. Nor, for the matter of that, were His requests made according to the tyranny of Zedekiah, David’s last king, who tyrannized slaves and made his requisitions without any tempering of mercy. For Jesus knew that His royal requisitions demanded much, but that His priestly love first of all gave much. Jerusalem, what more could you demand? He made His first request in order to be the master of all as a king. He made His second request by way of asking for a place in which He might wash His disciples’ feet. Was there ever such harmonious requisition? Is this not a paradoxical requisition? Is this something different, O Jerusalem, from what Zechariah wanted: king, commander, priest, chief servant of all, and all these united in one person? True, He made His demands and insisted upon them, but He also gave His life, gave His blood, gave His soul, and gave Himself as a ransom for many. He felt free to make His demands upon His people, but He also endured the demands which God makes upon His people, shouldered the burden of them Himself, and as the Surety and Mediator of all bore their myriad burdens.

[2] Christ on Trial, Chapter 23: p. 428 ff.

[3] We referred to that prophecy repeatedly in Christ in His Suffering, and also in Christ on Trial.

Such is the account of His harmonious requisition. What remnant remains of that royal, of that priestly, glory? Look, the long fingers of priests are pointing, and the strong arms of soldiers are seizing a man upon whose day and body they laid claim in order that he might bear the cross of Jesus.

The king of the whole world, He who is the peculiar and the unique Priest is here, but the paganism (of the soldiers), and the Judaism (of the priests), make their demands on Him, over His head, and without Him. The royal sun is rising sluggishly in the distance. Caesar “Augustus” lays claim upon the whole world, and the Son of David, the Joshua of Zechariah’s nightly vision, can only look on. Such is the vision of the day and such is the judgment of the night and day. Caesar Augustus makes his demands, makes them very brutally, and right in the presence of the king of righteousness. The priests of Aaron are a part of the procession and they say: Just lay claim upon the time and energy of that man. Caesar demands; hence they call him Lord and God.[1] He demands his royal services. Demands are violently made on the way of the cross; but the whole demand proceeds from the idea that Jesus Christ may make no demand, that He is not a Lord, that He is a condemned slave. No royal services for Him, and no honorary services for Him, and that is the end of it. Never did human aid ever humiliate so profoundly as did the help given by Simon of Cyrene. Claudia—do you still remember?[2]—is a very friendly woman, but she does Him an injustice. Simon is the last aide, but he humiliates Him. The whole of His display of peace between a priesthood and a king’s authority, the whole of His perfect reconciliation of the antithesis of giving and taking all, as these were preached in His two acts of requisition, are covered up and are swallowed up in this procession. Hardened soldiers curse and pedantic priests make pedantic gestures. They have rings on their fingers, helmets on their heads. And the Joshua of prophecy holds His peace.

[1] Christ in His Suffering, Chapter: 13, p. 220; Christ on Trial, Chapter 17: pp. 331-332.

[2] Christ on Trial, Chapter 25, especially p. 481 ff.

This is another instance of negation. Not one drop of myrrh falls on Jesus’ cloak, the cloak of shame. Just let those fragments of Mary’s alabaster box lie where they fell. Humiliation here, sheer humiliation! Only the curse operates here. The Priest-King of Zechariah 6 is now being negated in the presence of the devils. One cannot do a king a greater injustice than by making the subject of all concepts of requisition the object of need.

Now we greet Thee, Son of David, in Thy terrible shame. When David by reason of his fleshly longing for requisition— that denial of his theocratic office—turned away from the oppressive pestilential wind which moved over his densely populated country—a fragment of the world then, but it had to become the church again — he, with the extreme fastidiousness of an Ornan, did not want to demand but wanted to pay for the place where the sacrifice was to be offered up, as well as for the flesh of the animal to be sacrificed. In this also—for repentance makes one very sensitive—the repentance of his heart becomes manifest. He knew again that the theocratic prince might never take unless he also gave. But here, O great Son of David, Thy remunerating offer, which Thou with Thine own blood art compensating for and presenting to Thy God and to His people, is being totally forgotten. For Thou art a slave in the eyes of men. Thou art a pauper, a pariah, who cannot even accomplish His empty death in the ordinary manner of slaves. How could such a death ever be adequate to a task designed to bless? That is what Thy sensitive ear can hear them asking. Pagans are making demands upon those whose royal services Thou as a king mightest demand. And that is part of being in the form of a slave.

Moreover, who does not think in this connection of the name which Christ would have, the name of Kurios. He wants to be called the Kurios, the Lord, the Owner of His own, the Chief-Requisitioner. Well, Simon of Cyrene will bite his lips to pieces before He can say to such a Jesus: My Kurios, my God. Simon of Cyrene—was he a pagan? Was he a Jew or a relative of a Jew come from a foreign land? I do not know, but I do know that he was either one or the other. And therefore we can say that the requisition of this man in this manner for this work was a molesting of the Spirit by Satan.

Only a few more weeks will pass, and the Holy Spirit will 011 the day of Pentecost demand the life and soul and spirit of Jews, of the relatives of Jews, and of the most outlying pagans for Christ Jesus. Then He will deliberately fetch His Jews, His pious men, and will bring them to the stage of Pentecost. He will even fetch His own from Lybia and God will call those living on the most distant shores of far away seas. Simon of Cyrene, together with all Lybians and all the pious men of Cyrene. But before the Holy Spirit proclaims Christ Jesus’ right of requisition over Simon of Cyrene on the feast of Pentecost, Satan brings him next to Jesus’ bloody and repulsive nakedness. It is necessary that a pagan be present here, or someone standing afar off, to see with his eyes and at close range the deplorable state of Christ the exlex. This is Satan’s way of attempting to put a dead fly in the ointment of Pentecost prepared by the spirit of Christ, in order that the feast of Christ might be spoiled by that one man who could not acclimate himself to the repulsive experience which he has had and which he has felt in his own flesh. If you or I had had to take upon ourselves the cross of a slave, wounded to the point of bleeding and that on a hot, summer mid-afternoon, would we then, several weeks later have announced to all the devils and to all the angels and to all men: This is my Lord and my God. Alas, what a sacrifice Jesus must give for His royal and priestly right of requisition, for that right which He exercised at the beginning of this same week. Accordingly, we shall not inquire—as so many do—what reward Simon of Cyrene was given. We shall not ask whether Simon’s reward in heaven was very great because he bore the cross of Jesus. No, we shall not even ask whether his grace-given remuneration was the conquest of his heart by the Crucified One who looked upon him, and with His eyes probably penetrated deeply into Simon’s soul. We do not know, and we do not want to know. Of what concern is Simon to us unless our most poverty-stricken One some day greet him in the eternal tabernacles. It is not ours to judge.

But this we would still say to ourselves. If we are to bear Jesus’ cross today, we will have to do it in a way different from Simon’s when he was compelled to bear it. There is but one who may exercise the privilege of requisition, and make it binding upon us. He is the Saviour, the Crucified Himself. It was a part of His humiliation that He might not make demands, that the double- edged sword of God’s sublime mockery was exerted against Simon before his own eyes, bidding him to help Jesus for a moment. No, we shall not thank Simon who bore the cross for Jesus; we shall thank only Christ Jesus who endured the suffering caused by Simon. Without resistance He bore this act of usurpation on the part of His cruel enemy. Not Simon, who bears the cross, but Jesus, who gives it up, is our Lamb, standing dumb over-against him who demands it. All of Jesus’ official right is being denied to His very face, and thus He endured. Great will be His reward in heaven.

As for Simon, and you, and I? Great will be our reward in heaven, great will be the reward of grace if only we will open our eyes and acknowledge Jesus as the One person in heaven who has the right of requisition. Losing this right, He achieved it for Himself for all time and eternity. There are those, we read in the Scripture, who have entertained angels unawares. Thus did Simon of Cyrene on this day unwittingly entertain the great Angel of Jahweh, thus did he accompany the faithful Messenger of God on His way to the cross.

Hence we see the clouds breaking behind this spectacle of sheer affliction. He who bears the cross today, and who even had to be released from this task, will soon be establishing His throne and His chair upon the stars. To His own He will say: You have clothed and fed me, given me to drink, visited me, and you have borne my cross. And they all will answer: Lord, when did we clothe and feed Thee, when give Thee to drink, visit Thee, and bear Thy cross? We know nothing about that. By our sins we placed the cross upon Thee, merely placed it upon Thee. But, looking around Him, He will say: These who have done the will of my Father, these have visited and fed me, and these have borne my cross.

May I therefore on this day fulfill the remnants of the suffering of Jesus with a holy reverence and with simplicity of heart. My name may not be Simon, but I am the spiritual father of Alexander and of Rufus. And on the via dolorosa where my sweat mocks all the kerchiefs of Veronica, He will be my Surety, great in concealment. He demanded everything of me today, because He first gave everything to me.

But say no more now, for I dare not utter a word about my work for Him. O God, I must first go and see. Thou dost demand my days, my nights, and my eyes, so that I may go and see what it is that Thou dost first require of Him. Father, Thy requisition presses upon Him. Thou dost oppress Him sorely, but as Thou doest so, Thine eye is fixed upon me. I hear Thy threat: Thou, miserable one, thou hast done this to Him.

The soldiers of Rome, and the priests of the Jews are very saints as compared with me when I think of this. They constrained Simon—a Moor, some say. By means of my sins I constrained my Lord and my God to bear my cross. He bears it, I bear it, yet not I, but Christ bears it for me. I have not the foal of an ass to offer Him, I cannot give Him a room in which to keep the Passover, but He lays claim on my heart: He would keep the Holy Supper. “Now Joshua had filthy garments.” He came from Simon’s field, and had drawn the furrows deeply. But be still. I know very well that filth can be of various kinds.