"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 (NIV)
The fourth week of Lent, and we are getting closer to the cross. As we follow Jesus from the people who say, "Crucify Him", we move to the journey of Jesus carrying the cross. It is so very hard to imagine that with all that Jesus had been through, the beatings and the crown of thorns, was not the end of his journey. It became the beginning. Now he needed to carry a huge wooden cross to Calvary. That walk through town, as people were mocking him, must have felt like light years away from the palms and cheers just a few days earlier during Palm Sunday.
As Jesus was making his way to Calvary, the soldiers forced Simon of Cyrene to carry the cross behind Jesus. The research I did about Simon was very interesting. Certainly, Simon wasn't in the crowd saying, "Pick me, pick me"! Chances were he was thinking more, "Why me, why me?" Scripture doesn't refer to Simon "proudly" taking up the cross or "jumping at the chance." He was selected to carry the cross to ensure Jesus got to the point of Crucifixion. With everything Jesus had been through, the soldiers were unsure he could make the journey to Calvary, so they told Simon to carry the cross. There is not much shared about Simon, except for one key phrase - he was the father of Alexander and Rufus. His two sons became key Christians in Rome.
The fact that Simon's sons had become strong Christians in Rome leads us to believe that Simon's life was forever changed by his carrying Jesus' cross. As he carried that cross, he knew he was taking Jesus to his death. What a truly heavy weight that must have been. Yet, how Simon's heart must have jumped for joy when he realized who Jesus was when He rose from the dead three days later.
Again, as we reflect this Lenten season, it is so very easy to see ourselves in Simon. When trials and tribulations fall into our lives, we don't typically "jump to the chance" to endure difficulties. Usually we are the ones asking God, "Why me?" I know the times that God has asked me to carry the cross may have been so difficult without a full understanding of "why" like Simon. Yet, days/weeks/months after, it becomes truly clear that my times of trials were used for greater faith in God or to assist others. When those realizations occur, my heart does jump for joy - joy that God chose me to suffer in order to bring a better result.
When life gets difficult and we think that "this cross we are bearing is too much", let's think of Simon of Cyrene. May we better find ourselves understanding that the cross we are bearing is a bit of Jesus' cross. At that point, I'm sure we will all try to stand a little taller, despite the heaviness of the cross, knowing that Jesus is with us - just like He was with Simon. What do we need to do to bear that cross? We need to have simple faith - faith that Jesus' death provided us the forgiveness of our sins and life eternal with Him. What a joyous day that will be!
"Dearest Jesus, how our lives were changed by Simon. As he carried your cross, Jesus, his life was changed forever - and the life of his sons. Knowing that he carried your cross for you helps us to better understand ourselves when we feel the cross we are bearing is too much. Help us to always go to you, Jesus, for it is in faith in you that we know you will help us to carry our cross here on Earth. Let our lives, and those around us, forever be changed by how we carry the crosses we bear. In your name we pray, Amen."