Scripture tells us the name of the man who carried the cross for Jesus was Simon of Cyrene. We can be sure when the Bible mentions someone by name that their story is important. There are three things I want to share with you about this man who carried the cross for Jesus, because I believe that you and I have so much in common with him.
#1 WHO WAS SIMON OF CYRENE?
When someone was sentenced to die by crucifixion, they were required to carry their own cross on their back through the streets of Jerusalem. As Jesus carried His cross, he became so exhausted that he eventually stumbled and fell, unable to stand up. He hadn’t slept at all the night before and must have been exhausted on top of the torture and beating he had endured. No matter how much the Romans insisted he stand up, Jesus could no longer stand and carry the cross and that’s when Simon of Cyrene comes into the story. The Bible doesn’t give us much information about him, but between scripture and church legend, we can infer so much about his story.
Located in North Africa, Cyrene had a large Jewish population. It is likely that Simon of Cyrene had come to Jerusalem for Passover, which indicates he was a man of real faith to be willing to make the journey from North Africa to Jerusalem. He came with his sons, Alexander and Rufus who are believed to have become followers of Christ and leaders in the church.
There’s a high probability that Simon had heard of Jesus, especially since everyone was talking about this prophet who preached like no other, could heal the sick and feed the hungry. Since mass media and Facebook didn’t exist, he wouldn’t have known what Jesus looked like. Hearing the commotion, he likely went and stood on the side of the street right as Jesus stumbled and fell to the ground. Before he knew what was happening, a Roman soldier was telling him to pick up the cross and carry it for Jesus, so he did. He carried it through the streets of Jerusalem all the way to the hill of Golgotha, outside the gates of the city where Jesus would be crucified.
#2 WHAT DID I DO TO DESERVE THIS?
It must have been humiliating to walk through the streets with these criminals, but Simon didn’t have a choice, he had to do it. Sometimes life isn’t fair and we can suddenly find ourselves facing circumstances out of our control. In the midst of the difficult circumstances of life, we still get to choose how we will respond. We can find comfort knowing we are not alone. As people of faith, we can find strength from beyond ourselves even during difficult situations. I believe Simon chose to carry the cross with a sense of compassion and in the end he would develop a relationship with Christ that would change his life. I also think Simon was there to encourage Jesus and as a result, he experienced a complete transformation and would carry Christ in his heart forever. And that’s exactly how it works for us! Life is hard and unfair at times, but we all get to choose how we will live within that framework and I believe that God strengthens us in the difficult times.
#3 A LIFE TRANSFORMED BY JESUS
Simon could have picked up that cross and been so angry saying, “I didn’t deserve this, it isn’t fair!” He could have avoided eye contact with Jesus, mumbled under his breath as he walked down the street and walked away after reaching Golgotha. I don’t believe that’s what he did. I believe he felt compassion for Jesus when he saw him and he must have grieved for what was happening to Jesus. Knowing what Jesus’s ministry was all about, I can’t help but think that Jesus also felt compassion toward Simon. I have a feeling He would have expressed gratitude to Simon for what he was doing.
If you can look beyond yourself in the tough times to still give a word of encouragement to someone, you’re going to find that God’s spirit slips up from behind you and is born in your heart. If you want to develop a relationship with Christ and you want to feel your heart transformed, look for someone to bless, even on the difficult days.