Then they led him out to crucify him.
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. They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means ‘the place of the skull’). Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.
It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. The written notice of the charge against him read: THE KING OF THE JEWS.
They crucified two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left.
Mark 15: 20b-27
Forced to carry Jesus’ cross. How would you feel?
Any soldier had the right to co-opt a citizen from an occupied territory to carry a load for a specified distance. But I have no idea how many Jews were co-opted to carry a cross for a criminal too badly beaten to walk the distance to the place of execution carrying their own cross-beam. Perhaps it was common-place?
In any case, Simon found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was probably angry at being made to deviate from his intended route, angry at soldier who grabbed him at that moment. Perhaps he was worried that, having done his duty to the hated Romans that he would be mistaken for the criminal and crucified by mistake!
Did he pity Jesus or was he just annoyed that he didn’t have the strength to drag more than his own body weight up the hill?
Why do we know his name? Why would this stranger in the crowd be remembered by name and for his place of birth by the early Church? Why did Mark write this detail down when he wrote his Gospel?
There is only one likely answer to that question. Simon must have been a follower of Christ – or become one, following that day. He must have been known to the Christian community. Perhaps he was a notable member of a church in Cyrene?
Did he enter Jerusalem that day to make his sacrifice at the Temple, to sacrifice a lamb in thanks to God for freeing his people from Egypt only to discover another sacrificial lamb – the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world?
If so, what made the difference? Did he see something in Jesus face, or in the tears of the women who lined the streets? Did he hear what Jesus said to the thief on the cross or what the Centurion said?
What happened that day as he lifted Jesus cross on his back to change his life forever?
Would he look back in gratitude that he was chosen and conclude that he was in the RIGHT place at the RIGHT time?