As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross.
21 A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross.
22 They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull).
As they 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.
Jesus had been up all night and day. He had been forced to march in chains from Gethsemane to meet Annas and then to meet Caiaphas, and then to Pilate. He had been led to Herod and back to the governor. He had been flogged and beaten by the soldiers. His exhaustion and blood loss must already have been severe. He was made to carry a crossbeam on which he would be crucified. It weighed 30 or 40 pounds and was strapped to the victim's shoulders.
In his condition, Jesus was unable to carry this heavy wooden beam. So "a certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross" (Mark 15:21). With this surprise, another person enters the narrative.
Cyrene was located in northern Africa, where Tripoli, Libya is today. No doubt Simon had traveled from that far off land for Passover, saving for years in order to make the pilgrimage. This would be the highlight of his year, perhaps his life. He brought his sons with him for this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
It is not difficult to imagine Simon's initial reactions to being compelled into this service:
- Surprise in being singled out;[ out of so many around… why me?]
- Annoyance with this unplanned sudden change in his original plan[ I have not planned to face this]
- Reluctance to be associated with a man who was pronounced criminal in the eyes of the Roman authorities & Jewish religious leaders;
- Embarrassment in being the focus of attention in bearing the cross meant only for convicts.
Simon's experience and ours may be vastly different but the reactions are often the same.
This leads us to a reflection on how we handle carrying our inevitable crosses. The cross was unexpected for Simon; the cross is often unexpected for us, as well. He could not refuse the cross and, ultimately, neither can we. While we will never know for sure the answers to the questions we wondered of Simon in the aftermath of his encounter with Jesus, we can use similar queries to examine ourselves:
- Do we see through our crosses knowing (unlike Simon at the time, he was helping Jesus) that if there is no cross there is no resurrection?
- Do we get from those with whom we interact, especially family and friends, support and help through our struggles, or are they becoming blocks to our spiritual growth? In any case, do we become examples of patiently bearing the cross ?
- Do we invoke the Holy Spirit, patiently waiting for his assistance in our trials, and then letting him work in us to perfect us? Knowing difficulties will come, do we pray regularly to endure such challenges in the spirit of Paul who : "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church" (Col 1:24)?
- Do we eagerly tell of the blessings we received for having endured the trial, or do we hasten to put the entire experience behind us? Moving forward, do we, as Simon may well have done, allow the experience to change us, and allow us to grow closer to Christ, sharing our witness with family (especially our children), friends, and those whom we encounter?
Following Christ, Moving Forward [Luke 9: 23 Then he said to them all: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me]
Notice again what we are told about Simon of Cyrene in Luke: "after laying the cross on him, they made him carry it behind Jesus" (23:26 ) Most likely, we wish (and hopefully pray) that the burden will be removed. And there is nothing wrong with asking God for relief. If the Lord reduces our pain, we should be quick to acknowledge it, and give thanks to him for the healing. If God does not take away the pain, we need to understand that he may be using it to help us grow in faith or hope or love or completely surrender to his will.
In the case of Simon, Jesus used his own way of the cross to draw Simon to himself, an encounter Simon would not have had otherwise, and possibly an encounter with Christianity in which he would have never engaged. Simon may never have come to pay attention to the Gospel message had he not crossed paths with Jesus. As a result, Simon's sons may not have become active as Christians (who knows how many lives they changed?).
In your God allows you to have crosses which you can bear, are you grateful & have positive attitude as carrying them with Patience will change your life for eternity.