March 04, 2001
Simon, the Cross Bearer
Mark 15 : 21 - 22
A certain young man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull).
The forty days of Lent provide us with a marvelous opportunity to look a bit more soberly at the price Jesus paid for our salvation. The account of Jesus’ suffering and death can be summarized in a few words. The Apostles’ Creed uses eleven words to tell us, “He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.” The Nicene Creed was written in the fourth century and in fifteen words told the Roman emperor how Christ atoned for humanity’s sins. “For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried.”
However, the Gospel writers tell us the details of those horrible hours. These inspired writings introduce us to some of the people who made up the crowd assembled at Golgotha’s hill where Jesus died. One of the people in the crowd was Simon of Cyrene.
Cyrene was an important city of Lida in North Africa that had a large Jewish population. One of its citizens named Simon was in Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish Passover. As he stood by the side of the road, Jesus, accompanied by the Roman soldiers, passed by. The Lord was carrying His cross on which He would be crucified. One of the beams weighed about 30 to 40 pounds. Exhausted by the beatings He had endured and the long, uphill walk to the place of execution, Jesus collapsed. At that time, a Roman soldier forced Simon to carry the cross. It could have irritated Simon. To visit Jerusalem was the experience of a lifetime for Simon. He had dreamed of the day when he would celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem. Now Roman soldiers had forced him to carry the cross of a criminal.
While carrying Jesus’ cross, something was happening in the mind and soul of this man from Cyrene. He was attracted to Jesus. This person was different. In severe pain, He looked down from the cross and made preparation for His mother’s care. He looked out over a crowd who was showing its hate for Jesus and asked God to forgive them. He looked to His side and assured a criminal that today he would be with Him in Paradise.
Did Simon leave Jerusalem after the Passover as one of Christ’s followers? Was he in the process of being converted? Had he become a Christian? There is no one sentence that would tell us Simon had been converted, but there is strong support that Simon did become a disciple of Jesus. We have to piece his story together, and when we do, there is strong evidence to suggest the Holy Spirit brought Simon to confess Christ as his Savior.
Here is some of the evidence that is used to bring us to this conclusion.
Mark, in his Gospel, says, “A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross.” Let me quote from two prominent Biblical theologians.
Dr. R.C. Lenski writes, “Although Rufus is a common name, we are safe in regarding this Rufus as one of the sons of Simon. Mark wrote his Gospel a few years after Paul wrote the book of Romans and inserts that Simon was the father of Rufus and Alexander. It is very likely that Mark wrote this Gospel in Rome for the Romans. He named Simon’s son because the Romans knew them and had at least Rufus and his mother as members of their congregation. Simon, the father, must have died, and Alexander was either dead or lived in some other place.”
Another Biblical theologian, William Barclay, believes Simon was one of the Christian teachers at Antioch. Putting this together, it is a common viewpoint in the Church that Simon became a Christian and raised his family in the Christian faith. This brings us a powerful message.
As we learn from Simon and his relationship with Christ, are we not much like him? When do we really get serious about Jesus and our relationship with Him. Is it when good things happen to us? I am sure this is true in some cases. We are thankful for the Lord’s blessings. We stop to thank Him for His goodness, and it draws us into a closer relationship with God. But let’s go a bit further. For many of us, is it not more often when we live with heartache, disappointment, and grief that we begin to look more seriously at life and wonder where God fits into the picture? Much of what we had counted on to bring us peace and joy has failed us in the end.
Our material wealth has provided us with the necessities of life and many pleasures, but we have learned there are many things our money will not buy.
When we have been successful in reaching our life’s goals, what are our new challenges that make life worth living?
When we boast about living for 70 years and never being a hospital patient, how do we handle the news that it’s time for bypass surgery and we must adjust our lifestyle to accommodate our physical strength. What do I do when my spouse of 10 years has decided that he or she doesn’t love me anymore and wants out of our marriage? To whom do I turn when my children have forgotten me and seldom come to call on me?
How do I forgive myself for making a mess out of my life? We learn that Christ has the answer to life’s more serious problems. When our souls are filled with guilt, He offers us forgiveness. When life draws to a close, He assures us of a Heavenly home. When humans fail us, He promises never to fail or forsake us.When we have made mistakes, He tells us it’s never too late to start over.When life is boring, He gives us new challenges.
Many crosses can be added to our life’s journey, but Jesus has promised, “Cast all of your cares on me, I care for you.” If you are a Christian, live with that promise. If you are not a Christian, receive Christ as your Savior and experience with Simon of Cyrene the joy of walking with Him each day. First, a peace that passes all understanding will fill your soul. Then, you will have a story to tell to the nations. Amen.
Rev. Homer Larsen