“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 15:21 (NIV)
Condemned Roman prisoners were paraded by the soldiers along the street, carrying the cross that would be used to crucify them, towards the execution ground. It was a form of public humiliation and crowds lined the street to watch the gruesome spectacle, with some even following behind the procession to watch the crucifixion. Jesus had been flogged so badly that he was injured and bleeding. Before long he was stumbling, unable to carry his cross any further.
Roman law allowed soldiers to compel passers-by to help them carry their loads for a mile. The centurion in charge seized upon a man called Simon and made him carry the cross for Jesus, Jesus stumbling along in front.
The passage tells us that Simon came from Cyrene, which today is the eastern part of Libya, North Africa. History tells us that at that time, a large population of Jews lived in Cyrene. We can therefore assume that Simon was a Jew who had probably come to Jerusalem to visit the temple to participate in a Jewish ceremony.
Imagine the thoughts that went through Simon’s mind then. “God, why me? Touching this condemned man, his bloodied cross, is going to make me ceremonially unclean – the blood on my clothes; everyone will know – I won’t be allowed into the temple. When word of this gets back to my hometown what will they think – I was involved in some horrible crime? My reputation – this is terrible…”.
Don’t we followers of Christ often think in similar ways when the Lord gives us a difficult assignment or allows us to go through a trial or difficulty? “Lord, why me? Why this way?”
As we look into the verse once more we see that Simon is described by reference to his two sons, Alexander and Rufus. This tells us that Simon’s sons were followers of Christ, in order for Mark to record their names in that way. Perhaps Simon was already a follower of Christ, or as a result of the encounter, he became one.
Bible Scholars believe that when Paul wrote the following words in Romans 16:13 – “Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too.” – he was referring to Simon’s son, Rufus. If so, Simon’s wife (Rufus’s mother) was a great disciple who had encouraged Paul in his Christian life.
Imagine then Simon looking back later and reflecting how that incident had changed his life. Imagine the blessed joy of being recorded in Mark’s gospel as a person who helped Jesus in his hour of need.
Today, can I look at a situation differently when I am asked to be inconvenienced to stop to help someone in need? How might we be blessed if we make it a point to always re-look at everything through Christ’s eyes?
May meditating on Simon’s act of helping Jesus carry the cross be a blessing to you today.
God Bless you!
By Daniel John (YCKC Bulletin 15 March 2020)