As they came out. That is, out of the governor's palace, where he had been treated with such cruelty and contempt, or out of the gates of the city, to crucify him.
A man of Cyrene. Cyrene was a city of Libya, in Africa, lying west of Egypt. There were many Jews there, and they were in the habit, like others, of going frequently to Jerusalem.
Him they compelled to bear his cross. John says, Jn 19:17 that Jesus went forth "bearing his cross." Luke says, Lk 23:26, that they laid the cross on Simon, that he might bear it after Jesus. There is no contradiction in these accounts. It was a part of the usual punishment of those who were crucified, that they should bear their own cross to the place of execution. It was accordingly laid at first on Jesus, and he went forth, as John says, bearing it. Weak, however, and exhausted by suffering and watchfulness, he probably sunk under,the heavy burden, and they laid hold of Simon that he might bear one end of the cross, as Luke says, after Jesus. The cross was composed of two pieces of wood, one of which was placed upright in the earth, and the other crossed it, after the form of the figure t. The upright part was commonly so high that the feet of the person crucified were two or three feet from the ground. On the middle of that upright part there was a projection, or seat, on which the person crucified sat, or, as it were, rode. This was necessary, as the hands were not alone strong enough to bear the weight of the body; as the body was left exposed often many days, and not unfrequently suffered to remain till the flesh had been devoured by vultures, or putrefied in the sun. The feet were fastened to this upright piece, either by nailing them with large spikes driven through the tender part, or by being lashed by cords. To the cross-piece at the top, the hands, being extended, were also fastened, either by spikes or by cords, or perhaps in some cases by both. The hands and feet of Jesus were both fastened by spikes. Crosses were also sometimes made in the form of the letter X, the limbs of the person crucified being extended to the four parts, and he suffered to die a lingering death in this cruel manner. The cross used in the crucifixion of Jesus appears to have been the former. The mention of the cross often occurs in the New Testament. It was the instrument on which Jesus made atonement for the sins of the world. The whole of the Christian's hope of heaven, and all his peace and consolation in trial and in death, depend on the sacrifice there made for sin, and on just views and feelings in regard to the fact and the design of the Redeemer's death. The following cuts are, therefore, inserted as an illustration of the usual form of the cross, and common method of crucifixion. The annexed cut shows the simplest form of the cross. the usual mode of crucifixion is illustrated by the first cut : -