Luke 23:26 - Now as they led Him away, they laid hold of a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, who was coming from the country, and on him they laid the cross that he might bear it after Jesus.
A group of us from our Sunday School class did something a bit different. We took a field trip!
We all gathered at the Holy Hill Basilica in Hubertus, Wisconsin. They have displayed there on a very winding, hilly route in the woods the Stations of the Cross. Easter brings many people out to Holy Hill to climb the tower of the church to view miles of Wisconsin scenery, perhaps have lunch, attend a service and walk the stations to reflect on what Jesus did this time of year for each of us.
We gathered as a group of about 20, children to seniors, to do our own reflecting together. At each station someone did a short devotional of their own about what their particular station meant to them and what emotions were felt--and there were some moments. A man tearfully stated he knew what it meant that by His stripes we ARE healed because he had been healed of a disease and added that in Christ we are also spiritually, forever, healed. One woman held back tears as told how she could understand, as a mother, what Mary must have gone through. And a teenage boy was struck with emotion by the reality of what Jesus did for each of us, a sure sign of tremendous parental and spiritual upbringing. A few others from outside our group stood alongside to occasionally listen.
I chose Simon helping Jesus carry the cross. Let me share:
What a symbolic gesture it was for Simon to carry Jesus’ cross. Jesus told us even before His death we were to carry our cross. Who would have understood that before His death?? And then He carried it out...He carried His cross. He lost, or better yet for us, gave His life that we might have life. Jesus told us "whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it." (Matthew 16:25 NKJV)
His journey on earth had led Him to the streets of Jerusalem to the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Sorrows, where He was being led to Golgotha to be crucified. We understand He did not resent being crucified for our sins; despite all He had done on this earth, He was to be best glorified in this His death...and later resurrection.
But there was this man. Simon from Cyrene, from a northern African region, either Ethiopia or Libya. He happened to be among the throng watching as Christ passed by carrying the crossbeam that would soon hold Him. Maybe he stood out because of the color of his skin; maybe he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time...but was he? God knew what Simon was about to do. He knew what needed to transpire.
Simon was a Jewish convert. He was there to celebrate the Passover, a long trip for him to be sure. And he was caught in the midst of this crowd, perhaps lost. Again, God knew what was about to happen.
Christ fell a second time. The impatient Roman soldiers compelled Simon to carry the cross for Jesus. It was something that HAD to happen. And think about it if Jesus didn’t have the strength to carry His own cross the whole way, who says we can? But because of what Simon did, that gesture shows us now what we are to do and what we are capable of when Jesus has become our strength. He helps us.
It is said Simon may have been reluctant. Who would want this task? Besides the cross being covered in blood, it was heavy and a symbol of guilt; only criminals carried a cross. Yet Jesus was not a criminal, and neither was Simon.
I’ve also heard that Simon was a believer. Perhaps that came about after being part of this whole scenario, after sharing in Jesus’ suffering, after having felt compassion for Jesus. Perhaps Simon later asked questions: Who is this Man who seems to have people strongly for or against Him? I don't understand it. Maybe he even already knew but was unaffected until this moment. We'll never know. But maybe in time he became a believer.
The act itself might have given Simon a compassion for what Jesus was going through. Might our compassion be stirred and would it grow if we devoted more time to carrying our own cross?
When we come to Jesus, receive Him unto ourselves to be our Lord and Savior, we give of ourselves for our Lord. Life is no longer about us. We must deny ourselves, a difficult thing sometimes, and carry our cross daily.
Jesus' love for us brought all this about. We are to emulate Christ…and Simon…carry our cross, even if at first reluctantly like Simon, deny ourselves, love on others that they might know the saving grace and eternal love of Jesus Christ. With His strength and His grace and mercy He helps along the journey. Come, let us carry our cross.
Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.” (Luke 9:23, Matthew 10:38)