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Carry the cross

The first man to walk with Jesus carrying his cross (literally) was an African Jew who came do the feast of Passover when Jesus was crucified.

Simon of Cyrene is mentioned in three of the Gospels, except John’s.

Mark 15:16-23 after the soldiers brought Jesus to Praetorium, they mocked him. They clothed Him with purple; twisted a crown of thorns onto His head, and saluted Him, "Hail, King of the Jews!" they struck Him on the head with a reed and spat on Him; and bowing the knee, as if they worshiped Him . After this humiliation they took the purple off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him out to crucify Him.’

V.21 Then they compelled a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus, as he was coming out of the country and passing by, to bear His cross. And they brought Him to the place Golgotha, which is translated, Place of a Skull.”

A Roman guard would place their sword on one’s shoulder and expect them to obey their command (Matthew 5:41). This is what they did to Simon.

Simon was not involved in the crowd gathering for his sentence but on their way up the hill he was suddenly chosen for this horrendous task of his demise by Rome. What was someone doing In Jerusalem at this time from Africa? In all likelihood he too was a Jew at the Passover celebration. Cyrene is a city in North Africa, Libya where large number of Greek-speaking Jews lived.

Luke’s Gospel tells us that Simon carried the cross behind Jesus as he was led to his crucifixion. Jesus said in Lk.9:23 “ If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” Here we have an illustration of what discipleship is.

Simon is unaware of the events early in the day, Jesus’ trial or what is now taking place. Simon was suddenly chosen for this once in history action to bear the cross of the savior. It was probably hard for Jesus to continue to carry the crossbeam up the hill (The main vertical beam was already in a pre-dug hole waiting for the crossbeam. Jesus was extremely weakened in his body by 2 trials and the beatings, they picked Simon as they were on their way to Golgotha to carry his crossbeam. Simon could have been picked because they saw he had bodily strength. They did not want this postponed by Jesus walking slowly, for the crucifixion was an act of torture and nor did they want him to expire before it. Jesus will need all his strength to survive 6 hours of suffering on the cross. Simon was carrying the beam for the one that many knew to be their Messiah. Simon must have been aware of the plaque of which was written: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. (John 19:19) He also heard a “ great multitude of the people followed Him, and women who also mourned and lamented Him.” (Luke 23:27)

He probably heard stories of this Jesus, being in Jerusalem, and now he has his beam he would be crucified with laid upon his shoulders. When he got to Golgotha they took the main post out of the ground and took the crossbeam off Simon to attach it to the vertical beam. Did Simon leave after he delivered the crossbeam or did he stay to see the suffering and death of Jesus? More than likely he did. Simon must have been present to watch the nails hammered through the hands and feet of Christ into the wood he was to be crucified on.

We read Jesus prayed, saying, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.” (Luke 23:33-34)

While the other disciples failed to keep awake the night before in prayer and fled in the arrest, here Simon is physically serving Jesus in his last mission, the purpose for him being born; the divine appointment for humanity’s reconciliation.

Carrying the cross behind Jesus is practical Christianity, it is the way of life for those who have responded to follow in his footsteps according to Luke 9.

The mentioning of Simons name functions as historical reference. Mark put this in his gospel as in all probability both Simon’s sons, Rufus and Alexander were influenced by their fathers involvement and were known to the Church. This event had to have changed his life. They were family of believers as Mark wrote his gospel years later. Paul mentions Rufus, likely to be one of Simon’s sons in Rom. 16:13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine.”

50 days after, at Pentecost the visiting Jews of Cyrene heard Galileans speak in their own language and Peter preaching after.

Later in Acts 11, Antioch became a city of importance as the gospel advanced to the Gentiles.

Acts 11:19-21 “ Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only. But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.”

v.20 Hellenists were Greek speaking Jews, and Gentiles, they spoke to the Gentiles, they took the gospel to non-Jewish people in Antioch and later Antioch would become the first Gentile area to the advance of Christianity.

In Acts 13:1 we read at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene”

Barnabas and Lucius are of Cyrene, Simeon, who was called Niger (black); Simeon is another variation of the name Simon. It’s uncertain to know whether he is the same one who carried the crossbeam but likely is, since Scripture does not put names or events in by happenstance.

These men of Cyrene that were included in that preaching work that now advanced the gospel to the gentile communities and cities outside Jerusalem. Certainly the story of Simon would be made known but not as explicitly spoken of as The woman with the alabaster of costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head. Jesus spoke “ Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her." (Mt. 26:7-13)


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