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. Mark 15:21
Today’s verses tell us about Simon of Cyrene, who walked behind Jesus as a disciple carrying his cross. His name does not make the Heroes of Faith list alongside Isaac or Abel, but he became one of the minor heroes in the good-news story of Christ’s suffering.
A man from Cyrene in North Africa, Simon “was passing by on his way in from the country,” when the Romans forced him to carry Jesus’ cross to Golgotha. Simon was probably tired already, since he was traveling into Jerusalem from the countryside. But he was forced to change course and go back out of the city. And for what? To carry a cross for a man sentenced to a most horrible death by crucifixion.
We don’t know any detail about that journey, or whether Jesus and Simon spoke to each other, but it seems that Simon’s life may have changed after carrying that cross. He is also described as “the father of Alexander and Rufus,” details that suggests these young men were known by the community that first read the book of Mark. Did Simon and his family become followers of Jesus? They surely could have, because many people became believers after Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to heaven. (See also Romans 16:13)
Simon did literally what God calls us to do figuratively: take up the cross and follow Jesus.
Taking up the cross of Jesus also means accepting help – a gift I have yet to master! How often do we struggle under the weight of physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual suffering alone?
What did Jesus do when presented with the cross? He accepted help. Today, let’s put our fear, pride, duty, and stubbornness aside and accept help. Today, let’s either offer to help someone carry their cross or accept someone’s help in carrying our own cross.
Prayer: Father God, let us serve you by carrying whatever cross you call us to. Help to share each other’s burdens, just as we accept help too. In Jesus’ name, Amen.