Mar. 23, 2012
As the soldiers 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.
Every Jewish man, at sometime in his life, is to celebrate the Jewish Passover in Jerusalem. This was Simon’s year; for him and his two young boys, Alexander and Rufus. They made the pilgrimage from their hometown of Cyrene, in our modern-day Libya. It was a trip of a lifetime. Think of it in terms of taking young children to Disney.
On Friday, the family was excited to go into Jerusalem, visit the Temple and observe the Passover remembrance. Excitement filled the air. Just a short distance from the city, they came upon something like a parade. Maybe one son asked if they could watch. As people formed a line, they joined.
Simon noticed this was not a regular parade. The procession was led by Roman soldiers, driving three people, caring heavy beams across their shoulders; the beams used as the cross beam for a cross. These men were going to be crucified.
One man was stumbling. His bloodied body had been beaten and whipped. Simon didn’t want his sons to see him. As he tried to pulled Rufus and Alexander away, the wounded man stumbled and fell at his feet. He couldn’t get up. A Roman soldier looked at Simon and said, “You there. You carry the cross.”
Simon looked at him. “Me?”
“Yes, you! Carry the cross!”
Simon told his sons to stay close. The soldier yelled again, “Pick it up!” Not knowing what else to do, Simon picked up the beam. Its heavy weight nearly made him sink to the ground. He noticed the crown of thorns around the man’s brow. Maybe Simon realized this must be the Jesus Christ he had been hearing about. Some thought he might be the Messiah. Simon extended his hand to him. He took it. With strength and courage, Jesus stood, composed himself and together, they walked forward.
It was a short distance to the Skull, the place where people were crucified. When they got there, Simon dropped the beam. Roman soldiers assembled the crosses for the three men being crucified. Two executioners assembled Jesus’ cross. He was stripped naked and soldiers forced his bloody body on top of the cross. They stretched his arms across the cross-bar before they took spikes and a mallet to attach him. Simon covered his son’s eyes as the mallet struck Jesus’ skin. Rufus cried out. Alexander became nauseous. They heard a cry of agony as the spike went through Jesus’ wrist. More spikes went through his ankles. As the cross was raised, they heard another groan of agony. Simon and his sons watched as a man die. They heard him speak. They witnessed these awful events.
We don’t hear of Simon again. Yet, watching the crucifixion must have had significant impact on him and his son’s lives. Mark’s gospel names Simon’s sons. They would have only been listed if people knew who they were. In Romans 16:13, Rufus is named again. He must be living in Rome with his mother; possibly a leader of the Christian movement in Rome.
Simon was the wrong guy at the wrong place at the wrong time. But those moments changed his life; forever.
Let us pray: Thus might I hide my blushing face while Calvary’s cross appears. Dissolve my heart in thankfulness and melt mine eyes to tears.. Amen.