We have just came out of Holy Week, beginning with Palm Sunday. We followed Jesus through Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. Throughout the week, we encounter different individuals whose lives were changed by the event of the cross.
One of whom the synoptic gospels wrote about was a man named Simon from the city of Cyrene (today in Libya). Luke tells us that, “… as they led Him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus.” Simon came to Jerusalem for the Passover. He saw a commotion, people were gathered to see those who were being crucified paraded in the streets as they walked the Via Dolorosa to Golgotha. He didn’t know who were being crucified. He was there to see the parade. Suddenly, out of nowhere, the hands of the Roman soldiers seized upon him and brought him out of the spectators and in front of Jesus.
Often, when the Bible mentioned certain events or individuals, there was usually lessons for us today. Simon’s name was mentioned three times by three gospel writers. God purposed Simon to be seized and compelled to carry Jesus’ cross. By now, Jesus was extremely weakened and could go no further. In Simon, we see the Father’s act of love to His Son. His bearing of Jesus’ cross temporarily eased His pain and burden. In so doing, Simon became a part in Jesus’ last earthly journey. Was it a burden or a blessing for Simon?
I see three blessings that came out of that short moment:
First, Simon came face to face with Jesus. Simon didn’t know Jesus beforehand. He was from Cyrene, a Roman city in North Africa (today Libya). The walk from the Antonia Fortress which was situated on the Temple mount would take Jesus downwards to the Tyropoeon Valley and then began a tedious uphill climb to Golgotha. At the Tyropoeon Valley, Jesus was not be able to do the climb in His weakened state. Simon was seized and made to carry Jesus’ cross upwards to Golgotha. I would imagine the conversations Jesus had with Simon, weak as He was.
Second, Simon was probably the first person who literally obeyed Jesus’ call to deny himself, take up his cross and follow Him. He was no longer a spectator but a participant of part of the greatest work in the world. It was not easy to follow Jesus with the weight of His cross. Simon made that journey with Jesus and accompanied Him right to His crucifixion at Golgotha.
Third, Simon’s life was changed forever, together with his family. Mark tells us that Simon was “the father of Alexander and Rufus”. Mark knew Simon’s children and apparently they were leaders in the church in Rome. Similarly, Paul writing to the Romans, says: “Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well.” (Roman 16:13). Before Rufus resided in Rome, both he and his mother were very closed to Paul.
Simon, from a spectator became a participant of Jesus’ crucifixion, went on to become a believer, and his family later impacting the church. We are called to carry our crosses and to follow Jesus. Simon taught us that carrying our crosses would bring us greater spiritual blessings than we can ever imagined.
A blessed Resurrection Sunday
Rev. Dr Timothy Chong