We know very little of this man of Cyrene, this Simon. It is conjectured that he is the father of the Rufus mentioned in Romans 16:13, the only other Rufus mentioned in the Bible.
In all probability, he was a pilgrim from Northern Africa, a Jew who had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, perhaps for the first time ever. But when he arrived, he got more than he expected. He saw the true Passover lamb sacrificed for him. (I Corinthians 5:7)
But for a time, Simon had to bear the cross Jesus was eventually crucified on. As Jesus was going up the hill, the physical strain, the loss of blood, the scourging, the beating he had taken at the hands of the soldiers, and the emotional strain, of being betrayed and abandoned by those he loved most dearly, became too much and he fell under the weight of the cross. He could no longer bear it.
And so Simon had to carry it for him.
And it makes me think. What would have happened if Jesus had said to us at Calvary, “Enough. I can’t bear this anymore. You carry the cross. You die on that cross. You deserve it after all, not me. I’ve never sinned. You have.”
In a sense, Simon had to experience that, if only for a short time. A cross that he should have been carrying anyway because of his sin, was put on him because Jesus simply couldn’t do it anymore.
Did he realize later, “I was doing Jesus no favor by taking up that cross for him. I was carrying the cross I deserved anyway. It was he who was doing me the favor by trying to carry my cross up to Calvary. It was he who helped me, he who saved me by dying on that cross when I should have been the one hung there. But what if he had chosen not to? What if he had simply felt like he could not bear it any longer? Where would I be now?”
The answer? Hell. Because that’s what we all deserve. Hell.
But Jesus did bear the cross. He loved us so much that he died there, and by doing so he took the punishment we deserved upon himself. And now, because of what he did, our sins can be forgiven, and we can find life as we were meant to have it. A life in relationship with the God who loves us more than any other.
So let us never take the cross for granted. And when we look at it, may we look to the One who died there with hearts full of gratitude.
Praise your name,
Lord I sing
You bore the cross.
So much love.
All my life, all I need is you.