Today is Palm Sunday. The day when Jesus descended the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem riding a young donkey as the people laid clothing and branches in the road before him shouting “Hosanna!”. Please save was their cry to the long-awaited Messiah. My how things quickly turned and instead of being celebrated, Jesus was on his way to being crucified.
There is one man in the events of the Jesus’ crucifixion that I have been fixated on recently. Simon of Cyrene is the man who just happened to be near to Jesus on his way to Calvary’s Hill. He is the man who carried the cross of Christ when he became too weak to carry it after he was brutally beaten. Three of the gospels tell us that Simon of Cyrene was not a willing participant in carrying the cross of Christ. “They forced a man coming in from the country who was just passing by, to carry Jesus’ cross. He was Simon of Cyrene, father of Alexander and Rufus.” Mark 15:21.
Simon was just a passerby, not knowing the incredible job he would be tasked with. And from the scriptures, we gleam that he did not volunteer, but was forced by Roman soldiers to carry our Savior’s cross. I wonder what Simon had on his mind that morning when he went about his day? Was he trying to make a living? Did he have friends he was meeting with that day? Perhaps his sons Alexander and Rufus occupied his thoughts on that fateful day. Whatever it was, it radically shifted when he was pulled from among the crowd to carry the cross of Jesus.
One historian predicts that the cross of Christ weighed around 165 pounds. It would have taken all of Simon’s strength to carry it as he followed a battered Jesus to the place where he breathed his last. I have thought a lot about what God wants to teach us through Simon. It is no arbitrary decision that chooses the man who is to carry the cross of Christ. It is no less arbitrary that he was forced to do so.
There have been times in my life that I was sailing through, consumed with what pertained to me alone. What will I do? Where will I go? How will I make ends meet? “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.’ Yet, you do not know what tomorrow will bring – what your life will be!” James 4:13-14
Simon certainly did not know what tomorrow held for him. Had he known, he would have certainly chosen a different route. We can all identify with Simon to a degree; we go about our normal routines until something alters our lives to the point we are forced to follow Jesus; we are forced to use all our strength to pick up the cross and carry it. “Jesus looked at his disciples and tells them, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciples must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.’” Luke 9:23
We may not always come willingly to the cross of Christ, sometimes we are forced there by our circumstances. I am thankful for an all-encompassing God who allows situations in our lives that will force us to consider the cross when we are not willing to ourselves. Simon grabs my attention and I hope grabs yours, because of how God grabbed him and made it impossible for him to escape a relationship with Jesus. Simon will always be tied to Jesus because of God’s relentless love for a rebellious mankind.