After His mistreatment by soldiers in the Praetorium, a Roman centurion led our Lord to Golgotha, the "place of the skull." As the procession traveled that short distance Jesus fell under the weight of the cross. The centurion, in a desire to hurry things along, "compelled a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus, as he was coming out of the country and passing by, to bear His cross" (Mark 15:21). The word "compelled" refers to the compulsory powers of Roman couriers over residents in an occupied country (cf. Matt. 5:41). There is a good likelihood that Simon was a disciple of Jesus, for his sons are listed by name, and Rufus is mentioned again in Romans 16:13.
"This must have been a grim day for Simon of Cyrene. Palestine was an occupied country and any man might be impressed into the Roman service for any task. The sign of impressment was a tap on the shoulder with the flat of a Roman spear. Simon was from Cyrene in Africa. No doubt he had come from that far off land for the Passover. No doubt he had scraped and saved for many years in order to come. No doubt he was gratifying the ambition of a lifetime to eat one Passover in Jerusalem. Then this happened to him." (William Barclay, The Gospel of Mark, p. 360).
Think about this for a moment: Simon was totally innocent of any crime. Jesus is the one who had been condemned to the cross for the crime of being "the King of the Jews." Yet Simon had to pay a price for being near Jesus and then had to bear His cross part of the 650 yards from the Fortress Antonia to Calvary.
I submit unto you that there are many times when one or more individuals have to pay the price for the actions of others.
Adam and Eve sinned against God and thus brought physical death to all of mankind (Gen. 3:14-19). The Bible does not teach that we inherit the guilt of Adam's sin. "The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself." (Ezek. 18:20).
While we do not inherit Adam's sin in any way, we do suffer the consequences of his sin. "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned..." (Rom. 5:12).
All men, women and children are now subject to physical death as a result of the sin of Adam.
The brothers of Joseph were extremely jealous of him. After discussing whether or not to kill Joseph, his brothers decided to sell him to Midianite traders who later sold him as a slave in Egypt (Gen. 37:28). The brothers then concocted a story and allowed their own father to believe that Joseph had been devoured by a wild beast (Gen. 37:31-33).
Who sinned in this matter? Obviously it was the brothers of Jospeh. Who had to pay the price for their sin? It was Joseph who had to work as a slave in Egypt and who had spend the majority of his life in a foreign country. Not only did Joseph pay for the sin of his brothers, but his father, Jacob, had to pay a terrible price as well. After learning of the "death" of his son, the Bible tells us "all his sons and all his daughters arose to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted, and he said, 'For I shall go down into the grave to my son in mourning.' Thus his father wept for him." (Gen. 37:35). Many years later, when Jacob finally learned that his favorite son was still alive, the Bible says "Jacob's heart stood still" at the news (Gen. 45:26).
At the destruction of Jericho the people of God were warned not to take any of the silver or gold from that city for it belonged to God. "And you, by all means keep yourselves from the accursed things, lest you become accursed when you take of the accursed things, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it. But all the silver and gold, and vessels of bronze and iron, are consecrated to the Lord; they shall come into the treasury of the Lord." (Josh. 6:18-19). One man, Achan, sinned by stealing "a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels" (Josh. 7:21).
When the people of God attacked the city of Ai they suffered a terrible defeat, for "the men of Ai struck down about thirty-six men, for they chased them from before the gate as far as Shebarim, and struck them down on the descent; therefore the hearts of the people melted and became like water" (Josh. 7:5). Joshua, the leader of the people, was deeply concerned and went to God in prayer about the matter. God told him that "Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. For they have even taken some of the accursed things, and have both stolen and deceived; and they have also put it among their own stuff." (Josh. 7:11).
After interrogating a large number of people, Achan finally acknowledged his crime. Joshua sent messengers to Achan's tent who found the stolen items and "brought them to Joshua and to all the children of Israel, and laid them out before the Lord" (Josh. 7:23).
As punishment for his crime, "Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, the silver, the garment, the wedge of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent, and all that he had, and they brought them to the Valley of Achor." (Josh. 7:24). Then, "all Israel stoned him with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones" (Josh 7:25).
Who sinned in this case? Obviously it was Achan who stole the silver and the gold. Who had to suffer the consequences for his sin? Not only did his sin cost thirty-six soldiers their lives, but no doubt many of those soldiers had families. There would be many widows in the camp as a result of Achan's sin. Little children in the camp would have to grow up without the benefit of having a father to guide and protect them. Not only that, but Achan's own children lost their lives as a result of their father's sin. If you could bring Achan back from the grave and ask him what he would do if he had it to do all over again, what do you think he would say? If he knew his own children would die as a result of his greed don't you think he would have avoided it altogether? The problem is that most people do not think of the consequences of their actions.
When David ruled over Israel, one year "it came to pass in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the people of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem." (2 Sam. 11:1). One evening David was walking on his rooftop and "from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold" (2 Sam. 11:2). David then sent for the woman, Bathsheba, and committed adultery with her.
Some time later Bathsheba sent word to David that she was with child. David knew how bad it would look for the king to be caught in such an affair, so he called for her husband, Uriah the Hittite, and tried to devise a plan to send Uriah to his home for a while so he would think the child was his. David's plan went array when Uriah, the noble soldier, refused to go to his wife while "the ark and Israel and Judah are dwelling in tents, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are encamped in the open fields" (2 Sam. 11:11).
David then devised a plan whereby Uriah would be killed in the next battle. David sent a letter to Joab, the commander of the army, and instructed him to "set Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retreat from him, that he may be struck down and die" (2 Sam. 11:15). David's plan worked, for during the next battle "some of the people of the servants of David fell; and Uriah the Hittite died also" (2 Sam. 11:17).
After a period of mourning, Bathsheba was married to David and he "brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son" (2 San. 11:27). No doubt David thought all was well and no one would ever find out about his sin.
After the birth of David's son, Nathan the prophet went to David and told him a story of a rich man who killed the one ewe lamb of a poor man and fed it to his guests. "Then David's anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to Nathan, 'As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die! And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity.'" (2 Sam. 12:5-6). Now picture Nathan pointing the finger of guilt towards David and saying, "You are the man!" Though David had not personally touched Uriah, Nathan said, "You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon" (2 Sam. 12:9).
Though David was extremely contrite and remorseful, he had "given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme." God told him he would have to be punished for his sin. As a result, the child died after seven days of suffering.
Who sinned in this matter? It was David who broke at least four of the Ten Commandments. He coveted his neighbor's wife, stole her from her husband, committed adultery with her, and then killed her husband. Who paid the price? Uriah and some of David's other servants died needlessly in battle. The young child died as well. The entire nation was disgraced by the immoral conduct of their king and his attempt to cover up his adulterous affair (sounds familiar doesn't it?).
We do not live in a vacuum -- our lives affect other people, "for none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself" (Rom. 14:7). There have been times in the life of each one of us when other people had to suffer the consequences of our sins.
Young children often have to pay a terrible price for the neglect of their parents. When Christians forsake the assembling of the saints, not only do they suffer, but their children have to grow up ignorant of the gospel as well. We are reminded to "train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it" (Prov. 22:6).
In cases of divorce it is always the children who suffer the most. It is hard enough to raise good children when both parents are doing the best they can. Several years ago I served as a volunteer reading tutor in the public schools -- I found it interesting that every child I tutored came from a broken home!
Sometimes parents have to pray the price for the sin of their children. "A foolish son is the ruin of his father" (Prov. 19:13). Children sometimes commit public sins which cause shame and disgrace to their parents and ruin the good name of the family.
Sometimes one spouse has to pay the price for the sin of the other. This is especially true in cases of adultery. The innocent party not only has to live with the shame and guilt of their partner's sin, but they also have to worry about the possibility of contracting aids or some other social disease.
Let us all be careful in our actions and remember that our sins have consequences -- not only for us, but also for those we love most.
One of the most humbling thoughts in the world is that the innocent Son of God had to die for our sins. Paul reminds how "God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8). The infinite love of God "made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5:21).