Matthew 27:32 (KJV)
32 And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross.
It was in the garden that Jesus sweat great drops of blood. It was there that he tried to find another way besides the cross to redeem his chosen ones. It was in the garden that he watched as all of his disciples forsake him and flee and one of his closest friends betrayed him with a kiss.
From the garden, he would be falsely accused of blasphemy, spit on, beaten with clubs, stripped naked and scourged until the blood ran from the wounds on his back. He would be subjected to several mock trials made to make him look like a baffoon. He would be laughed at and ridiculed and scorned and even openly rejected by his own disciples.
He would then be presented to the crowd to be crucified. At that point, he would have had the cross piece of the cross fastened to his arms and a rope tied around his waist. He would then be led through the streets of the city to be made a mockery and be ridiculed by the townspeople along the way to Golgotha.
His body would be wasted from the loss of blood and his strength would be gone. For him to take another step would be extremely difficult. As the other criminals condemned to die that day he would have had a rope tied around his waist and he would be pulled through the streets like a common slave. If he stumbled he would have no way to cushion his fall on them in the streets. His face would have fallen full force on the rocky path. He could not pick himself up because his arms would have been tied to the crosspiece of the cross. The guard who led him through the city would have to stop and pick him up so he could continue to the trek to Calvary.
After several falls it would be quite apparent it would take all day to get to Golgotha so someone from the crowd would have to be compelled to carry his cross. The guard would have searched the crowd for someone who looked like they could perform the task. A man named Simon from Cyrene was found and the guard pulled him out of the crowd and made him carry the cross.
The cross piece would have been untied from Jesus’ arms and placed on Simon’s shoulders to carry. When Simon stooped down to pick up the cross he would have seen the open wounds on the body of Christ. It would’ve Simon to reach the conclusion that no man could have lived with the wounds Jesus had in his body. His body was so disfigured you could hardly see any resemblance of a human form.
Surely it would have entered Simon’s mind what crime has this man done that he has been so beaten beyond recognition? The other criminals being crucified were not so disfigured like this man. What crime did this man commit that would bring about such brutal treatment.?
As Simon picked up the cross he would have heard the ridicule of the crowd and other guards along the way. There would be one thing he would not have heard though and this is what would raise the biggest question. This man, beaten beyond recognition, did not say a word in response. He was like a lamb before his shearers, silent before his accusers.
Possibly he would have caught the eye of Christ at least once or twice and he would have seen the compassion flowing from his eyes through the blood and sweat and tears. “Who is this man?” would have been the question Simon would have entertained.
Perhaps Simon would have experienced the gaze of Christ towards him. He would have felt embarrassed, confused, perplexed. He would have seen the love of Christ flowing towards him and maybe even heard these words from Jesus, “Thank you for carrying my cross.”
Something may have happened on the road to Calvary that day. At first, Simon was compelled to carry the cross, but now after seeing Jesus look at him, Simon embraced the cross as his own. He began to hold it as a trophy, a pearl of great price, a treasure he had been looking for all of his life.
The crowd would have observed the transformation come over Simon. Instead of carrying the cross under compulsion he now embraced the cross and held it with pride and gratitude and joy.
Wait, wait, wait. How could this be? An instrument of death was now being embraced by a stranger to this parade. His countenance was transfigured before the crowds. His steps were lighter, there was a growing joy as they drew nearer to Golgotha.
Mark records the names of Simon’s two sons, Rufus and Alexander. Rufus is referred to later in Romans 16, along with his mother. Why would Mark include these names in his gospel if not to illustrate what happens when people pick up the cross of Christ and carry it as a way of life.
We do not have any definitive work that indicates what happened to Simon after he carried the cross of Christ on Golgotha but I will conjecture here. This past week I, along with a few others, have carried an eighty-pound cross through the streets of Chicago and experienced the remarks of those who pass by and the stares of people thinking we are fools for doing such a thing.
There is something powerful in carrying a cross through the streets of a great city. You feel the weight of the cross. You feel the difficulty of pulling it through the streets. With each step you take you are reminded of what Jesus willingly suffered for you and the suffering of the cross becomes more personal.
It is my contention that one cannot carry a cross for long without being changed by it. I for one think Simon was so altered by the carrying of Jesus’ cross that he was never the same. Even his own family was converted because of Simon’s carrying the cross. We hear about his wife and his children from Mark and Paul.
Could it be that Christ compels you to carry his cross so that your family would be changed along with your own life?
I for one can say that what began as a compelling from the Lord is no longer a compelling but a passion.
May you feel the compelling of the Lord to pick up your cross and follow him no matter what.