Then they led Him away to be crucified. Along the way, they came across a man named Simon, who was from Cyrene, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. And they went out to a place called Golgotha (which means “Place of the Skull”). (Matthew 27:31-32)
Jesus, weakened from the flogging, cannot make it up Golgotha’s hill. When this becomes obvious to the Roman soldiers, they command Simon of Cyrene to help Jesus. Simon bends to help and lifts the cross, places it on his own back, and looks directly at Jesus with the crown of thorns pressed into His forehead with blood streaming down His swollen face. Simon feels for the man, but can’t help but wonder, “What if they confuse us? What if they think that I’m Jesus since I’m carrying the cross and end up crucifying me?” But this doesn’t stop Simon from serving Jesus. Instead, he takes up the cross and follows Jesus to Golgotha.
But who was Simon of Cyrene? We know he was a real historical person who was there at a real historical moment in time. We know that Simon was from Cyrene, a city in North Africa, in today’s Libya. He was a foreigner, an African, but it’s not certain if he was Jew or Gentile because the name Simon was common for both Jews and Greeks. Finally, we know that Simon helped the Lord in His final moments by carrying His cross. In Luke, Simon is reported to have carried the cross behind Jesus as He walked to Golgotha. Luke is the only one of the Gospels that says Simon carried the cross behind Jesus. All the other Gospels that mention Simon simply say that he carried the cross. Could it be possible that Luke wants us to recall Luke 9:23 where Jesus said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.”? Jesus had challenged His disciples with this scripture, but it was Simon of Cyrene who was available in the moment to serve the Lord. Though far from bearing the weight of our sin, Simon did at least bear the weight of the wooden cross. In that moment, Simon of Cyrene is a portrait of a true disciple of Jesus.
May we all be as true and faithful as Simon of Cyrene, ready to pick up our cross and follow Jesus at a moment’s notice.
Lord, thank You for the example of Simon of Cyrene. Please help me be ready to follow You wherever You may lead.
*Photo courtesy of James and Unsplash.com