Extended reading: Matthew 26:26-27:31 the Last Supper, Jesus’ arrest and trial, Judas hangs himself, Jesus before Pilate
32 As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. 33 They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). 34 There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. 35 When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 36 And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. 37 Above his head they placed the written charge against him: this is Jesus, the king of the Jews.
38 Two rebels were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” 41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42 “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
Jesus was beaten and bleeding. He had been flogged and spit on; a crown of thorns pierced the skin on his head. The same crowd that had cheered shouting “Hosanna!” just a few days earlier were mocking and ridiculing him. The one morsel of compassion shown to Jesus on this agonizing day came when the torturous burden of carrying the cross was relieved when they forced Simon to carry it for him.
Is Simon of Cyrene just some random guy in the wrong place at the right time? Mark and Luke tell us that he was “on his way in from the country”. Can we assume he just happened upon this horrific procession when he was forced to pick up the cross? As difficult as it was for Simon, in the midst of the chaos of the moment, can you imagine his overwhelming sense of joy three days later when he realized he was chosen to be the one to offer relief to the Messiah?
What do I do when I come face to face with injustice and cruelty? Do I join the mockers to fit into the crowd? Do I get lost in the crowd as to not be noticed? Do I take up the cross? Do I allow Jesus to pass that baton to me knowing the weight of it may crush me?
Lord, Help me to be ready at any given moment to choose to carry your message, to be your light, to carry on your work no matter the cost, Give me courage and faith, Jesus, to pick up your cross believing eternity with you is just around the bend. Amen