Yesterday was Good Friday, and our family tradition is to watch “The Passion” movie to remember what Jesus went through for us. Someone in particular caught my attention in a whole different way this year. Simon the Cyrene. As I watched him I almost wished I could have carried Jesus' cross.
I was thinking about how powerful it must have been for Simon the Cyrene. Let me be more specific. Scripture talks of him VERY little. All we know is that Simon was “coming in from the country” and that he was the father of Alexander and Rufus.
And of course that he was forced to carry Jesus’ cross. This Easter season it struck me that there could have been something deeply powerful about being forced to carry Jesus’ cross. (Luke 23, Matt. 27, John 19 and Mark 15 tell the story.)
Yes, I would assume that at first he would have objected, which is why he would have to have been “forced” to carry the cross. HE would have been identified as a criminal when he wasn’t, not to mention the atrocity of it all.
Even more, if you look at the bible passages, it seems entirely possible that Simon hadn’t met Jesus yet. If he was on his way in from the country, he very likely hadn’t been there when Jesus rode through town on a donkey. He had probably heard rumours of it by now, but by no means would he have been clear about who Jesus was or, I could imagine, have ANY idea that the man everyone was talking about as the Messiah could be in the midst of being crucified only a week after arriving on that donkey.
So, here is a man coming into town, for what we are unsure. But a man who has the final opportunity that anyone else on earth would ever have, to literally follow Jesus.
WOW, I imagine that he would have begun to see the true character of Jesus. First, astounded at the wounds inflicted, wondering what this man could possibly have done. Then, toward an awareness of the soft and gentle nature of Jesus as he walked, beaten and bloody, to His death.
I don’t know for sure, but I think it might be possible to suggest that, once he arrived and no longer had to carry the cross, he may have stayed to see how things would play out. The compelling nature of what was happening would likely have drawn him in. I think that by this time he would have caught on to who Jesus was and begun to wonder how things had turned south so fast.
If he did stay, Simon would have heard Jesus ask forgiveness for all of those present who “knew not what they did.” Prayers of forgiveness for those who had persecuted him, and remember, having seen the persecution and possibly even experienced some of the insults and beatings along the way, Simon may not have forgiven the crowd himself.
And yet here he was listening to Jesus pray forgiveness for others, and grant forgiveness to a criminal on the cross next to him. He would even have had the opportunity to watch the interactions between Jesus and his mother and John.
We know that a roman soldier saw the same and was impacted… how much more the man who, all in one brief moment, met Jesus, followed Him, carried His cross and saw His witness? (Matt 27:54)
It strikes me that the experience would likely have changed anyone’s life, and it is one that I would almost envy. Don’t get me wrong, the horror of it all would have made things extremely difficult, but the opportunity to be that close to Jesus in his last moments on earth, and to have carried the cross that was meant for Him – Wow.
I noticed recently too, that the name Rufus (also Simon’s son’s name) is used later in the bible;
In Romans 16:14 Paul says;
“Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too.”
Is it possible that the experience that Simon had, affected him so much that his son became a dedicated disciple?
So what does that say to us? Have you encountered Jesus? A true encounter with Jesus will ALWAYS leave you changed. The example of Simon is a perfect example of exactly this.
I’m so glad that Sunday is coming! Aren’t you? Lets make sure we take the time to encounter God and let Him change us, especially at this time of year.