Summary: Maybe you are carrying your burdens while others in the crowd are watching as you struggle. Maybe you fall from time to time under the weight of those burdens. The crowd around you may even taunt you or there may be those who encourage you.
The Blessing in the Burden
Have you ever had a burden thrust upon you that made you think, why has this happened to me, why now, why here, why in front of everyone?
Maybe you have received a phone call at the last minute asking you to watch someones sick child just as you were ready to spend a night out. Maybe the boss walked into your office at the end of the day only to lay a huge project at your feet with a deadline that was impossible to meet and with too little budget to complete it but for some reason you are the one this honor falls to.
Maybe you have had an unexpected or unplanned pregnancy or maybe you are the parent of a child with special needs. Maybe you are the wife of a husband who is going through a midlife crisis that is tearing your marriage apart. Maybe you are a father who has received a phone call from a police officer asking you to come downtown and pick up your child since the police are releasing them for drug possession.
I have illustrated only a few of lifes unexpected burdens for you in an effort to draw our attention to how God uses them for His purpose in our lives. Yet you may ask how can there be a blessing in the burden for me?
Such was the case in todays scripture passage. We read the familiar story of the betrayal, torture, trial, sentence and execution of our Lord Jesus Christ and then in the background of all this God mentions a man named Simon.
Is this just a historical reference for our benefit? Does God just want to make sure this man gets credit for carrying Jesus cross by making sure he is mentioned in the bible? With our Heavenly Father there is purpose in His every word. Let us look at this man Simon and the circumstances that surround the cross that he was to carry.
The time of Jesus execution was also the time of the Jewish Feast of Passover: when the Angel of Death passed over the Hebrew nation and struck down the first born of their Egyptian masters that finally led to Pharaoh releasing them from slavery and into Moses hands.
It was an annual feast that called all Jews back to Jerusalem in order to worship and celebrate being freed by Gods hand. This was an especially important feast for the Jews to celebrate at this time in their history since they were once again an occupied people under their Roman masters.
This was the event that drew Simon of Cyrene and his two sons Rufus and Alexander all the way to Jerusalem on the day of Jesus execution. Simon had come to celebrate how his God had freed people: not to witness how people were arrested, tortured and executed by the power of this evil world. But that is what he came face to face with as he happened upon Jesus and the procession leading to Golgotha that day.
Cyrene, Libya was located in North Africa and scholars believe Simon was a black man who was a member of the Jewish synagogue there. No one knows why he was chosen out of a crowd of people. It could have been that he was big and strong and appeared fit enough to carry the cross through the streets and up the hill of Golgotha. It could have been that God wanted Simon and Simon alone to carry this burden for Jesus.
Simon was ordered to take the cross he did not have a choice. All of a sudden he was now playing a principal role in the execution of a man he did not know, Jesus Christ. I wonder what Simon heard as he walked through the crowds, did he hear of Jesus miracles, and from those he healed or fed? Did Simon hear the sound of Hosannas to the Son of David? Maybe Simon heard the cat calls of the Pharisees and Sadducees; maybe he heard their accusations and insults.
Surely Simon heard the women as they wailed and mourned for what Jesus was suffering and for what he was about to suffer. All along the way Simon watched a tortured man struggle step after step as he was led to his public execution. With all the shouting and crying from those around him Simon had to wonder how he would be viewed by this divided crowd. Would he be seen as helping the Romans or be seen as offering a compassionate act to this Jesus everyone was so worked up about?
To carry a Roman cross was to be identified with death and lawlessness. Would people in the crowd get the wrong idea about who Simon was? There was no separating himself from the events and now his sons were witness to them as well. This was a scene of madness and horror free for all to see there was no escaping it.