Summary: This is a narrative sermon that shares a story about Simon of Cyrene. Several points of observation are at the end of the message. Rightfully utilized, the "story telling" methodology is an effective format for communication.
THE UNEXPECTED CROSS
(Sermons2012: Simon of Cyrene Narrative) 3/11/2012 a.m. Mark 15:21
A theologian said the cross of Jesus is like a diamond because the more angles you can look at it the greater your appreciation. Over the next two weeks we are going to look at the cross from different perspectives. Today we are going to look at the cross from the perspective of Simon of Cyrene. He makes an appearance in the fifteenth chapter of Mark’s gospel.
And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.
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. They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull) Mark 15:20-22 NIV
Do you have a Bucket List. You know a list of experiences you want to have sometime in your life. Probably a good portion of them are simply places you want to see. Today’s story features a man with a place to go on his “bucket list.” Although he would not have called it that. He found what he expected and what he had not expected.
Simon had dreamed of that day all his life. The day he would first enter into Jerusalem. For those of his Hebrew heritage, it was the most important place in the world. The place where Abraham almost sacrificed his only son Isaac. The city that King David made his capital. The land where Solomon built the first Temple. The place where Jeremiah and Isaiah prophesied and Nehemiah had rebuilt the Wall. But what he wanted to see most was the new temple. “Herod’s Temple” they called it because old King Herod had expanded and remodeled the old temple before he went mad with suspicion. Work on it had begun several decades ago. And while the main structure was done, some perimeter areas remained incomplete. And while it was not a widely recognized wonder like the pyramids of Egypt, the Colossas of Roads or the Temple of Aphrodite in Ephesus, it was the most endearing structure in the world for all the descendents of Abraham.
You might say Jerusalem was Simon’s most favorite place in the world he had never been. He really wanted to remedy that. Not just to be in Jerusalem, but to be there at during its grandest time, Passover! Historians estimate that as many as 100,000 pilgrims come to Jerusalem annually for the Passover feast. Those who live within close enough proximity make the journey every year. For others, like Simon, it was a dream just to get there once in his lifetime. Today you might say that seeing Jerusalem with his own eyes was something on his “bucket list.”
But, such a journey was no easy task. You see Simon lived in the city of Cyrene. It was the capital city of the district of Cyrenaica in North Africa. There were many Jews in Cyrene. Over the centuries, hardship and warfare had caused the spread of Hebrews all over the world. Many years ago Simon’s ancestors had settled here. Decades later the population of jews in Cyrene numbered in the tens of thousands. Even so, his people were a minority in the area. While far from the land promised to Abraham thousands of years ago, they worked hard to observe and preserve the heritage, traditions, and practices of their people.
Ever since he was a boy, Simon and his family observed Passover. When he was the youngest at the dinner table, he would ask the opening questions beginning with: What makes this night different than all others. And each year he would be mesmerized at the story of how God used Moses and ten plaques to melt Pharoah’s heart to the point that he would let the Hebrew Slaves go. He would get a chill down his spine when they told the story about the Passover Lamb whose blood was placed over each family’s door, requiring that the death angel pass over that home.
Each year they retold the story, completed their Passover observance, and declared, Next year in Jerusalem. But to Simon it sounded like empty words, good intentions with no real means to become a reality. After all, it would require a journey of over 800 miles just to get there. It felt like it might as well be a million miles.
It would take months and an enormous amount of funds for such a pilgrimage. But Simon was determined to see it with his own eyes. It was his dream!
He did not have picture books, postcards, and the Internet to give him images of what it looked like. What he did have were the descriptions of the folks around him, some of whom had been to Jerusalem, had seen the Temple, and told about it in vivid detail. They spoke of support columns so massive that three men with outstretched arms were required to embrace them. Simon was told that the outside of the building was covered with so much gold that a person could scarcely look directly at it in the bright sunlight. He heard about priests going about their duties in robes made of the finest linen and of walls a hundred feet tall! Each rendering made Simon want to be there all the more…during Passover. If he was going to make the trip, he wanted to be there in the season of its grandest celebration.