“Then they compelled a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus, as he was coming out of the country and passing by, to bear His cross.” – Mark 15:21 (NKJV)
It was once called the “Athens of Africa” but after being “bequeathed” in 96 BC to the iron fist of Rome, Cyrene would have its identity changed forever. One of the things that happened (around 85 BC) was it being divided into classes. You had your citizens, your farmers, some resident aliens, and a small population of Jews. It was in this small population came a man named Simon and as far as history goes this man is forever alive in the pages of the Bible. The Catholics have him as 5th on their Via Crucis list (Stations of the Cross) and he is their patron saint of passers-by. But for me, Simon of Cyrene is something different.
It was definitely a long journey from Cyrene to Jerusalem in order to make Passover but I think it is the only plausible reason Simon is even outside the city walls. He is making his way to Temple with his family to make the sacrifice for atonement when they get caught up in the commotion of Jesus being taken to Golgotha. They start off as by-standers, perhaps thinking that once these criminals stroll on by they could get to the business at hand. But that all changes when the spear of a Roman Centurion taps Simon on the shoulder and is “compelled” to carry the patibulum that Jesus is struggling with. Funny thing about the word compelled…the Latin word for it has a Persian root which means, “pressed into the service of a king.” But I don’t think this crossed Simon’s mind. But then Simon looks into the eyes of Jesus…. “This is no criminal” thinks Simon.
I’m sure Simon is getting spat on, jeered at, insulted, whipped, all the things that a mob does during this journey to a place to die Simon is having to endure, interesting. He was gonna go to the Temple but once the blood of Jesus gets on him, who will soon be a dead man, he becomes unclean and now is no longer able to perform the ritual sacrifice that he journeyed to make. Then he is gonna hear Jesus say this to a few mourning women, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For indeed the days are coming in which they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, wombs that never bore, and breasts which never nursed!’ Then they will begin ‘to say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!” ‘ For if they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry?” (Luke 23:28-31) “No criminal says such things” thinks Simon.
Maybe it would be only later on that Simon would realize who’s Cross he was carrying and why he was chosen to be part of that day. But whatever we can speculate one thing is gonna happen and that is Simon is going with Jesus the rest of the way to the place of the skull. I wonder if we can put ourselves in Simons shoes, but have them walk in our modern times. Like Simon, we can get a narrow focus on what our church life should be – those Sunday mornings where all that matters is getting it done and over with. Maybe this was Simon’s mindset with heading to Temple. Maybe it was time his reason to revere YHVH needed to change.
Sometimes I think we have forgotten the reasons we came to Christ in the first place. For Simon, he needed to get to Temple, present the sacrifice, have the throat slit, get the blood spilled, sprinkled and burned so he could feel better about the rest of the year. For Christians, we seem to be in the same mindset, we need to get to church, sing the songs, give the tithe, hear the message, receive the benediction and get to lunch so the rest of the work week will go well. Unfortunately, like with Simon of Cyrene, God could send a Roman centurion into our lives and “compel” us to stop what we’re doing, pick up that bloody beam and realize just how much it takes to be a child of The Most High God. Simon may have been faint of heart at the start, but as that walk went along I bet he understood why Jesus was doing what He was doing. May it be that way for us as well. Amen?
Written by Chris Hughes: Chris, a graduate of The Colony of Mercy (11-2003) is married (Kathy) with two adult children (Kevin and Karen) and has been a Freedom Fighter contributor since 2008.
Daily Quote: “The righteous do good and forget about having done it! The unrighteous however, keep a mental record of all the good that they have done.”
This Week’s Verse to Memorize:
The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17