This controversial topic is such a deep and meaningful part of the crucifixion. Let’s find out more about Christ’s humiliation as He carried His cross and what it means to the believer today.
So how far did Jesus carry the Cross?
Jesus (and Simon of Cyrene) carried His cross for at least 1/3 mile (600 meters), but was likely lead on a longer path to humiliate him. Modern achaeology indicates that Jesus was sentenced outside the Praetorium on the South West side of Jerusalem (contradicting the traditional Via Dolorosa) and then lead to Golgotha to be crucified.
What The Bible Says About Jesus Carrying His Cross
All four of the gospels include an account of Jesus’ crucifixion and highlight different aspects of the event. When we overlap them we see the full picture more clearly.
He was born more than 2000 years ago to the same world we live in. He was born in a humble setting, foretelling the rest of His life on earth. When He was in His mid-30s, Jesus was arrested and sentenced to death by Pilate at the governor’s headquarters.
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)
He was mocked with a purple (most likely faded red), cloak and crown of thorns before being redressed and led out to His death. On his way to Golgotha, the soldiers forced a man, Simon of Cyrene, to help Jesus carry His cross (some versions indicate He carried it for him, either way, we know Simon of Cyrene helped Jesus). After being scourged and beaten, Jesus was likely very weak – not being able to carry His own cross was a further humiliation he had to bear.
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)
So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha.John :16-17 (ESV)
The Road to Calvary: The History and Evidence
The route that Jesus walked while bearing His cross is a topic of debate. The latest archaelogical evidence contradicts the traditional route that millions of people have visited and walked as a pilgrimage.
The Traditional Via Dolorosa (“Way of Suffering”)
The traditional route, named the Via Dolorosa, is dotted with 14 stops each commemorating a “station of the cross”. This Catholic tradition has broken up the story of the crucifixion into 14 moments, some mentioned in scripture and others not.
This traditional route and pilgrimage underwent many changes over the centuries according to the debates and opinions of the Catholic church regarding the stations and the order of events of Jesus’ journey to His crucifixion. It currently starts on the East side of the city, adjacent to the Antonia Fortress, on a piece of land which was believed to the be the site of Herod’s residence.
The Latest Achealogical Evidence
According to 1st century Romano-Jewish historian, Josephus, it is probable that Pilate, a Roman Governor, stayed at Herod’s palace during his time in Jerusalem. In 2009, an Israeli Archaelogist, Shimon Gibson, discovered what is believed to be the ruins of Herod’s Palace on the South West side of the Old City.
This changed scholars’ opinions on the accuracy of the traditional Via Dolorosa.
This building site includes a raised platform (where Pilate likely stood) and showed signs of barracks (where Jesus was held). This is unlike the starting point of the traditional route, which has now been proven to have historically been an open pool of water, not the supposed residence of Pilate.
The Importance of Jesus’ Journey With The Cross
It is fascinating to think about the exact route that Jesus walked on His way to Golgotha, but it is even more important to consider the purpose and meaning of His journey bearing the cross.
Fulfillment of Old Testament Prophecy
Jesus’ life and death served to fulfill scripture and to highlight that He is indeed The Promised Messiah. When we consider Christ’s journey with the cross and the way He kept silent and accepted the humiliation and fate ahead of him we are instantly reminded of the passage in Isaiah 53 in the Old Testament which foretells these events in the New Testament.
Isaiah 53:7-8a (ESV) He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away…
Christ’s Humiliation – a Picture of the Christian Life
The scriptures record Jesus’ life of service, of love, and of seeking to glorify God the Father. Before Jesus’ death, he described what being a follower of Christ looks like. It is a life marked by self-denial and death (taking up your cross).
And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.Mark 8:34-35 (ESV)
What does it mean to live a life marked by death?
Christian, you are called to live a life that denies the flesh but is alive in the Spirit. To follow Jesus is to ignore all the world has to offer; fame, fortune, comfort, even happiness, and choose to walk in God’s ways, putting Him first, obeying His Word and proclaiming the gospel until He returns. This is the heart of discipleship.
This is your cross, Christian. Bear it gladly as you follow Jesus; the only Way, the only Truth, and the only Life. No one can come to the Father, except through Him. (John 14:6)
And we know that He’s coming back – very much alive – in power and with a tattoo on his thigh. We await the day!