Summary: Simon of Cyrene is on his way into Jerusalem when his plans are inconveniently changed when he is called upon to carry the cross of Jesus. The “silent witness” of Simon calls us to think about the ways Jesus uses the inconvenient moments of life to draw us closer to Himself.
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Mark 15:21 Simon Who Is Inconvenienced
Even before Jesus is crucified He has faced a brutal ordeal.
Looking at some verses in Mark 14 and 15
Some of the Sanhedrin began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, “Prophesy!” And the guards took him and beat him.
Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
Mark 15:17, 19
A whole company of soldiers … twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him.
After this Jesus is lead out to be crucified. Initially Jesus was carrying his own cross.
Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha).
Jesus who has been whipped, repeated punched and beaten with a staff. He is bloody and bruised and has very little strength.
Carrying the weight of the cross.
This means he has to walk through the city.
Where there are narrow streets and huge crowds.
The place is stifling. People are yelling out and mocking Jesus all the way. Roman soldiers would have had to separate the crowds to create a narrow path for Jesus.
In the end it is all too much. Jesus collapses under the weight of the cross. And that creates a problem. The procession isn’t going anywhere.
The soldiers are not going to help.
The disciples are nowhere to be seen.
The Jews just keep laughing and mocking.
No-one is going to lift a finger.
Enter into the picture Simon of Cyrene.
As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross.
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.
As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.
When we put this few verses together we can paint a bit of a picture. Cyrene is a large city in modern day Libya.
It was a city with a large Jewish population.
All Jews sought to make at least one pilgrimage to the holy city during the time of the Passover to celebrate and make a sacrifice at the temple. For Simon the trip from Cyrene to Jerusalem would have been long and difficult.
1300km by land. 57 days to walk. 35 days by camel or horse.
1100km by sea. At least 6 days of sailing, plus 1 to 2 days over land.
This is perhaps a once in a lifetime journey. The fulfilment of a dream which would have incredible spiritual significance.
Simon is on his way from the country into the city – in other words he is coming from the opposite direction. He has no idea what has been going on.
Someone needs to help Jesus ... no-one wants to.
The Roman soldiers had the authority to conscript any citizen into temporary service.
They make a convenient choice … YOU – carry the cross!
The is …. inconvenient.
It is inconvenient because it was not part of Simon’s plan.
Simon had not come to Jerusalem to carry a cross. He had just spent anywhere between 35-55 days making his way to Jerusalem This was supposed to be a memorable time for him and now he has to carry a cross through the streets and out the city gate. All to help a disgusting, bloody criminal who has been so severely beaten he can’t even walk.
It is inconvenient because it is an emotionally draining task.
Simon follows Jesus.
This means he now has a front row seat to all the mocking and scorn and hatred. He would be feeling the mood of the crowd first hand.
In the middle of all the shouting and screaming.
That is a huge amount of emotion to endure.
It is also inconvenient because now Simon is unclean
Jesus’ blood and other body fluids would have drenched the cross by the time Simon picked it up. Not only was it disgusting and unsanitary, touching the blood of another person made you unclean and unacceptable.
Simon can’t go to the temple to sacrifice the Passover Lamb.
Simon won’t be clean in time to participate in the Passover.