Author: Andrew Lee, Rev., Dr., Eastern Regional Director, ISAAC, New York
20 And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him. 21 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. (Mark 15:20-21, NIV)
With great brevity, Mark paints the fate of Jesus. After a night of mockery and torture, the soldiers are finished toying with him. The king of the Jews is stripped of his “royal robe” and led to the slaughter. He is seemingly powerless to resist, at the mercy of their diabolical whim and fancy.
Is Jesus now so weakened from his ordeal that he is unable to carry his own cross? Sleepless, beaten, wounded and bleeding, he falters after taking several steps. The Roman soldiers note his condition and conscript a passerby named Simon to help.
On his part, Simon of Cyrene was probably in Jerusalem intending to celebrate the Passover. Instead he is forced into menial and humiliating labor to carry the cross of a stranger condemned to crucifixion.
What happened on that short journey to Golgotha was life changing for Simon. We have no record of any interaction between Jesus and Simon, no witnesses to any exchange they may have had. But it is significant that Matthew, Mark and Luke all report what Simon did.
Mark writes to his audience with an air of familiarity about Simon. “He is the father of Rufus and Alexander.” There is the implication that the Christian community is well acquainted with this family because they, too, follow Jesus. Simon did not volunteer to carry Jesus’ cross. He was forced to do so. But when he did, it became life changing for him and for his family.
Jesus calls us to deny ourselves and to carry His cross (Luke 14:27). We are not compelled to do so by some outside force as Simon was. It must come from a voluntary offering of our heart. Might it be life changing when we do?
The ISAAC 2009 Lenten Devotional, edited by Rev. Dr. Johnson Chiu. This devotional was written by Asian American English ministry leaders and pastors in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. To purchase, click here: Road of Suffering, Road to Glory: A Lenten Adventure with the Savior