Can you imagine being Simon of Cyrene? According to Luke 23:26, he was just “a certain man coming from the country, and on him they laid the cross that he might bear it after Jesus.”
Evidently he had not been involved at all in the proceedings of Jesus trial. Evidently he was not in the crowd jeering or following along to mock the criminals. He was on his way into Jerusalem from the country. When his path crossed the crucifixion procession, he was randomly picked out of the crowd and forced to bear a cross.
He may not have had an idea of what was going on, however, I believe, based on Mark 15:21, he must have learned and become a Christian. That seems to me the most logical reason for Mark including his two sons’ names, Rufus and Alexander. These were people with whom Christians would be familiar.
Simon literally picked up a cross and followed Jesus all the way up Golgotha. Did he stick around and view the crucifixion to its end? I do not know. But I imagine that event lingered in his mind until the day he died.
Why recall this story? Because Simon physically did what we have been called to do spiritually. In Luke 9:23, Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.”
To help us understand this imagery, we need to put ourselves in Simon’s shoes. Was carrying the cross up Calvary’s hill easy? Doubtful. Was it an exciting task? No way. Did it entail glory and honor among the onlookers? Absolutely not.
Simon was more than likely mocked and ridiculed along with Jesus and the two criminals in the procession. He may have even been struck by the Roman guards as they forced their way up the hill. When he was done, probably no one but a lowly carpenter’s wife thanked him.
Because we have never witnessed someone bear their cross to their death, the meaning of Jesus’ statement is somewhat lost on us. Jesus was not just telling us that serving Him would be a slight burden. He was telling us that submitting to Him would mean ultimate sacrifice.
He went on to say, “Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.” He was not speaking of actual martyrdom necessarily. Rather, he was pointing out that if we try to hang on to our own lives and will, we will lose our eternal life. But if we want to gain the eternal life His sacrifice purchased for us, we must give up our lives, our ways of thinking, our glory and honor and sacrifice ourselves to accomplishing His will. We must not simply do this on Sunday, but daily. Let us take up our crosses and follow Him. Let us live the life of Simon the Cyrene.
Edwin L. Crozier
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