Simon of Cyrene
When Pilate ordered the death penalty, bowing to the vociferous demand of the Priests, Pharisees, Scribes and the Jewish mob, Lord Jesus was led to Golgotha to be executed. A criminal who is awarded the death sentence is also made to take the wooden beams of the cross. Taking up their own cross, the equipment of execution is not a pleasant task and was done to break the spirit of the person who got the death sentence. The harrowing procession displays human cruelty, as well as the administrators warning to the public, that similar fate awaits those who dissent or rebel or break the law.
The procession that day was more heart rending as Lord Jesus was exhausted with severe beatings by Pilate’s soldiers and Herod’s soldiers. Certainly, he was emotionally exhausted as he was betrayed by one, denied by another and abandoned by the disciples except John. The spiritual burden of the Sin of humanity also was wearing and weighing upon his spirit, soul and body. Lord Jesus took his own cross and started the journey for his execution and death. (John 19:17) However, he stumbled and could not walk further with the heavy burden. The Roman soldiers did not want their prisoner die before being executed, so thought to bringing someone to help Lord Jesus.
Available to take cross
Simon of Cyrene was one of the pilgrims from Africa, in modern Libya. Bible scholars are divided and do not know for sure, if he was Diaspora Jew or a convert to Judaism from Africa. As many devout Jews who come to Jerusalem during Passover and Pentecost Simon also arrived in Jerusalem, may be at the time the sordid procession went out of the gates of Jerusalem. Simon must have travelled for a month from Africa to reach there.
Some scholars have opined that Simon was a secret believer and protested the cruel treatment of the Roman soldiers. In retaliation, Simon was compelled to take the cross. Other scholars think that he was a stranger, it was wise for soldiers to hold him and make him carry the cross. Because of the surcharged atmosphere of hatred, a Jew would not have volunteered to carry the cross. “And 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.” (Luke 21:26)
When disciples were missing, the beneficiaries of Lord Jesus ministry were missing, and Good Samaritans were missing; Simon was available. He was there at the right moment for the right job. It is God’s Sovereign design that Simon was there at that moment. Simon who must have come to offer Passover lamb as sacrifice, was able to help the LAMB OF GOD that taketh away the sin of the world.
Available to follow
Simon was compelled or ordered to carry the cross. When there was so much animosity among the public towards Lord Jesus, helping the victim was not a favourable option. Simon had to identify with Lord Jesus, in his shame, humiliation, rejection, verbal and violent abuse. Simon could have been reluctant, but there was no other option under Roman rulers. Either he had to obey or flee that means to face arrest.
Simon is a model for all disciples. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mathew 16:24) Cross is the symbol of brutality, violence, agony, shame, sin and death. A follower of Lord Jesus Christ has to identify with Lord Jesus on the Calvary road. The march of Lord Jesus was in the atmosphere of hostility and hatred. The followers of Lord Jesus should anticipate hostility and hatred from the world, because they are not of the world. (John 15:18,19) There is no alternative path.
Available to lead family
The gospel writer Mark gives one more information, that Simon was father of Alexander and Rufus. “And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.” (Mark 15:21) For the audience of Mark’s gospel, the two prominent men Alexander and Rufus were well known. Simon not only followed Lord Jesus Christ, not just in literal sense on that day, but all through his life. There is no record that Simon boasted about this, in fact, Simon was introduced to the audience of Mark by reference to his sons only. Simon made sure that his children also follow the footsteps of Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul writes about Rufus, who is considered as the same Rufus mentioned by Mark. Simon’s wife also was a wonderful woman of God and was like mother to Paul. “Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well.” (Romans 16:13) The whole family were part of the family of the first century church.
Available to lead missions
The Church at Antioch had leaders from three continents. One of the leaders is Simeon (a variation in the spelling of Simon). Simeon and Lucius were from Cyrene. (Acts 13:1). Some bible scholars suggest that the Simeon here is the same Simon who carried the cross for Lord Jesus Christ. Simon as one of the dynamic leaders in Antioch was involved with other church leaders, fasting and praying as well as commissioning of missionaries Barnabas and Saul (Paul) to various parts of the Roman Empire.
Simon followed the Lord in the path of Calvary and continued his journey in the path of Glory. Like Simon everyone should be available to carry the cross. That is pre-requirement for becoming disciple of Lord Jesus Christ. Somehow, this is a missing element in the preaching today. Simon was available to follow, that means to identify with the humiliation, suffering and rejection of Lord Jesus Christ. In the world, disciples of Lord Jesus Christ should anticipate suffering and pain. Simon was available as spiritual leader of the family, with hospitable wife and sons of prominence in the church. In the local church, Simon was a leader involved in building the Kingdom of God.
Simon is an inspiration, model, challenge and worthy of imitation