As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross.
Simon was new in town, having just arrived for a big celebration. This was something he looked forward to every year, but this time was extra special. Simon had brought his two sons with him so that they could see the celebration first-hand.
He had only been in town for a day or two before he’d started hearing about another visitor to the big city. This guy had started stirring up problems pretty quickly, and Simon had heard news that the local authorities weren’t happy. There had even been talk that the stranger would be picked up for questioning. That was earlier.
Now, things had gotten much more intense. Instead of just questioning, the authorities had found the stranger, tried him and convinced the regional governor to sentence him to death. Simon didn’t know much more about the stranger, but something inside told him that he should try to see the procession to the place of execution.
Simon and his two boys – Rufus and Alexander – made their way to the road leading to the rock where all condemned prisoners were killed. Almost as soon as they arrived, a soldier grabbed Simon. “Pick it up, Jew,” the soldier shouted, as he laughed and pointed at a rough piece of wood. “Help your king!””
Simon looked at the wooden beam. The man lying beside it was in no condition to carry anything, let alone a heavy wooden crossbeam. Simon had heard some terrible things about this man, but as he looked in the man’s eyes, none of it made any sense. This man was no terrorist and not even a revolutionary. In front of him stood a man whose eyes held nothing but love, even in the midst of the pain and misery he was experiencing.
“I said pick it up!” The Roman soldier delivered a blow to Simon’s back with his whip. Simon winced in pain and then moved over to the cross.
“Let me help you with that,” he said as he helped Jesus to His feet, and then lifted the beam to his shoulder…
What I’ve just written is more – much more – than what the Bible has to say about Simon of Cyrene. Basically, we just know that Simon was there with his sons and that he carried the cross for Jesus for at least part of the walk to the cross. In Romans, Paul talks about a “Rufus” and his mother, and it seems likely that it’s Simon’s son. That would mean that Simon, his wife and his children all became Christians after their experience in Jerusalem. Why does that seem probable?
Consider this. Simon, for whatever reason, stood side by side with Jesus during the most tragic and intense part of His life. He undoubtedly touched Jesus and had the Lord’s blood spilled onto him. He saw up close the love and dignity that the Lord had in the face of the torment that others heaped onto Him. He was able see – maybe more than anyone else – just how wrong this execution was. If that had been you, would you have been unaffected? Would you simply be able to walk away and say, “Well, that was interesting.”
Me neither. And that’s why it’s unlikely that Simon just shrugged off the experience and then went about his business. Especially in this case, tradition seems to have gotten it right. There’s simply no way that anyone can get that close to Jesus – stand with Him, walk with Him, bleed with Him– and walk away unchanged.
This week, allow the Lord to get close to you, and allow yourself to draw close – or even closer – to Him, even if that means that you’ll have to do something difficult or uncomfortable.
Reflection copyright © 2017 Doug DeBolt
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.