Luke 23:26-28 “As they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me…”
Do you like a good tearjerker? If someone recommends a movie and tells you a to bring a box of Kleenex along, does that intrigue you? If someone says that he or she cried all the way through the book, does that tempt you to go out and get a copy? I believe everyone likes a happy ending, but a well-told story that moves us to tears before we reach the end holds it’s own special appeal. Even the Bible says that a sad face is good for the heart (Ecc. 7:3).
Is that what Jesus wants from us when we hear the events of his trial and crucifixion–a few tears that show how sorry we are that he had to suffer so miserably? It’s not your tears Jesus wants. He wants you to know why he goes to pain and death.
The women of Jerusalem recognized that this scene with Jesus struggling to the place of his execution was a supremely sad one. But they didn’t understand why he traveled this path. The long, slow process of crucifixion was not a sight the Romans wanted to have to look at all day long inside the city. The death of a convicted blasphemer and the uncleanness it brought was not something Jewish law would tolerate inside the city. So Jesus had to make the long, slow hike through Jerusalem to the place of his death.
But this forced journey involved something more. As he made his way through the streets of Jerusalem, he was literally carrying the sins of the people, of all people, to the place outside the city where he would give his life to dispose of them once and for all. It wasn’t the tears of these people that Jesus wanted. It’s not our sympathy. It’s our sins he wants. That is why he goes along this way to Calvary, outside the walls of Jerusalem– to take away our sins.
In fact, he wants this so much for us that he gave every last ounce of his strength in the effort. Already before he gets to the place where they nailed him to the cross, he collapses under the burden he is carrying. They take the lumber from his shoulders, the lumber to which they will soon pin him with spikes, and pile it on Simon of Cyrene instead. But the load could hardly have seemed any lighter. They could not take the weight of uncountable sins and give it to someone else. He would not give that burden up. It is why he goes this way: he goes to take away our sins.
Abraham Lincoln once said of the soldiers who gave their lives for our nation at Gettysburg, “…they gave the last full measure of devotion.” Even more so, that is what our Savior is giving us here: the last full measure of his devotion. He held nothing back. Before the cross, his strength had all but passed from his body. In the words of the Apostle John, “Having loved his own who were in the world, he now loved them to the end.” When we say that Jesus so loves us that there is nothing that he withheld from us for our good, that is not a theory or a pleasant wish. That is the fact we see before us in his sacrifice. All that he was, all that he had, right down to the molecules of oxygen and sugar his blood carried through his veins to give strength to his body, he gave up to free us from our sins.
He doesn’t want our tears. He wants us to know that this is why he goes this way: He goes to take away our sins.