Question:

Would it be considered false teaching to sing "Follow Me" in worship? I always thought that Simon carried the cross for Jesus because of this song. While reading the article "Where did Jesus carry his own cross?" it was brought to my attention that the Bible doesn't say why they made Simon carry Jesus's Cross. So I'm either not understanding the songwriter or the song is adding something that the Bible doesn't say: "I fell beneath the load."

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Answer:

The first verse of "Follow Me," written by Ira Stamphill in 1953, says:

I traveled down a lonely road
And no one seemed to care,
The burden on my weary back
Had bowed me to despair,
I oft complained to Jesus
How folks were treating me,
And then I heard Him say so tenderly.
"My feet were also weary,
Upon the Calvary road;
The cross became so heavy,
I fell beneath the load,
Be faithful, weary pilgrim,
The morning I can see,
Just lift your cross and follow close to me."

As pointed out in "Where did Jesus carry his own cross?" we are told that Jesus started out carrying his own cross, but at some point, Simon of Cyrene was pulled from the crowd watching and forced to carry the cross the rest of the way. None of the gospel writers tell us why. We do know that there was a Roman law that allowed soldiers to force a bystander to carry a load for them up to one mile (Matthew 5:41). The fact that a man was pulled from the crowds tells us that Jesus was not physically able to carry his cross the entire distance and that the soldiers leading him to his death did not want to do the work. The common belief, and a very likely belief, is that Jesus was too weak from the surging and blood loss that occurred shortly before. Jesus' physical weakness at this moment is not mentioned in the Scriptures, but the explanation does match all the facts presented.

Ira Stamphill wrote a song to contrast how pride slips into our lives. The first verse talks about how we too often think that our burdens are too much and that we don't deserve to suffer so much. He countered the view by pointing out that Jesus endured much more. "Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it'" (Matthew 16:24-25).

In describing the scene, Mr. Stamphill added his conjecture that Simon was made to carry the cross because Jesus became too weak. While I can't prove the point absolutely, I would not say it is a falsehood. Those who claim it is false would need to give some logical alternative reason for why Simon was made to carry Jesus' cross and then prove that their alternative is more likely.

Generally, we give the poet some flexibility because of the restraints he is working with to create a singable poem. Mr. Stamphill managed in a few words to vividly describe the amount of suffering Jesus underwent and what Jesus meant to "take up his cross and follow Me." I understand that a small detail was added the scene being painted in words that came from a logical guess. Personally, I don't see it as significant enough to ban the song, especially when the detail is likely to be true though unstated in the Scriptures.

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