Jump Start # 3082
Luke 23:26 “When they led Him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, coming in from the country, and placed on him the cross to carry behind Jesus.”
Our verse traces the tragic journey to the cross. Jesus, beaten, scourged, weak, needed help with the cross. The three synoptic gospels all reveal that it was Simon who was forced to carry the Lord’s cross. Simon was coming into town, Jesus and the crowd were heading out of town. They passed. And, Simon had to turn around and head out of town with the others.
Several things come to my mind when I think about this. Did Simon know who Jesus was? There is a good chance he didn’t. The appearance was a Roman execution of another Jew. For all that Simon knew, “this Jew,” Jesus, was a criminal. And, as Simon carries that heavy cross, he must have wondered if people thought that he too was a criminal. He must have wondered if the Romans might execute him as well. Once they reached Calvary, did Simon stick around? Did he hurry back into town?
Mark’s account reveals that Simon is identified as the father of Rufus and Alexander, as if the readers would know who Rufus and Alexander were. In Romans 16, Paul sends a greeting to “Rufus,” who is called a choice man in the Lord. Same Rufus? Same connection to Simon? Strong indication that we are talking about the same people.
Some thought for us:
First, often life changes things for us. At the moment we don’t see it and often do not understand it, but later on, we see how wonderful things turned out. Simon was heading into town. Another day for him. But, things turned and changed. He carried the cross for the Son of God. He was forced by the Romans to do something that he likely wanted no part of. He would not want to be connected with a criminal element that was heading to death row. He was simply minding his business, when things changed.
Many a day starts out like Simon’s. We’ll head to work. We’ll go to the store. We have a doctor’s appointment. Just a typical day. But a fender bender, a neighbor has fallen and needs help, someone at work is stricken with intense pain, and everything changes. You drop what you are doing and go help that person. Now your schedule is off schedule. Now your plans have been changed.
For Simon, it was more than just helping out, it was being forced to carry the instrument of death for the man walking in front of him. Simon’s cross bearing is something that he never thought he would ever do in his life. Life and death were placed right before his eyes. He was carrying what the man in front of him would be nailed to. Simon knew. People did not come away from the cross alive. Suddenly, thoughts he may not have had before are swirling in his head. And, like that, the same can happen to us. Life is fragile and precious and we can witness the sudden ending of a life and how that impacts us can change us for the good.
Second, Simon really did not have a choice in this matter. He was forced to carry the cross. Had he refused, a Roman sword might have been thrust through him. And, there are times when we are forced to do things that we do not want to do. There are times when we need to get somewhere but we can’t. Something has changed all of that.
Third, I like to think that Simon became a disciple and taught his son Rufus and Alexander about the Lord. Rufus, a choice man in the Lord, getting that from the man who carried the cross of Jesus. It’s hard to imagine Simon bragging about carrying the cross. It had to be that way, and he happened to be the one in that spot to do it, but it’s not something one would be proud about. The cross was necessary because our sins put Jesus there. Years later, Simon may have understood that the cross he carried, was really for him, not Jesus. Jesus was innocent. Jesus had done nothing wrong. Simon’s sins, our sins, would have put us on that cross. Simon was carrying what was rightfully his. Jesus would be on the cross, but the cross belonged to Simon. The cross belonged to me.
How could Simon go home feeling good about what he had done. There was no sin in carrying Jesus’ cross, but it was not something that he would have been happy about. And, as he learned who Jesus was and how innocent Jesus was, that sickening feeling that he had carried the cross would have drawn him closer to the Lord. I can see such a father, tears streaming down his cheeks, telling his boys about who Jesus was.
Simon carried the cross…Rufus became a choice man in the Lord. It’s not hard to see a connection. And, today, you and I carry the Lord in our hearts.