The Face of Favor: Simon of Cyrene Part 1
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
The Face of Favor: Simon of Cyrene
Text: “Then they compelled a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus, as he was coming out of the country and passing by, to bear His cross.” (Mark 15:21)
Scripture Reading: “So Pilate, wanting to gratify the crowd, released Barabbas to them; and he delivered Jesus after he had scourged Him, to be crucified. Then the soldiers led Him away into the hall called Praetorium, and they called together the whole garrison. And they clothed Him with purple; and they twisted a crown of thorns, put it on His head, and began to salute Him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” Then they struck Him on the head with a reed and spat on Him; and bowing the knee, they worshiped Him. And when they had mocked Him, they took the purple off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him out to crucify Him. Then they compelled a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus, as he was coming out of the country and passing by, to bear His cross. And they brought Him to the place Golgotha, which is translated, Place of a Skull. Then they gave Him wine mingled with myrrh to drink, but He did not take it. And when they crucified Him, they divided His garments, casting lots for them to determine what every man should take. Now it was the third hour, and they crucified Him.” (Mark 15:15-25)
“Where you there when they crucified my Lord?”
Simon of Cyrene was.
He was one of the faces beneath the cross, and we will find that he was highly favored by God.
He carried the cross to Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified.
We will use our imaginations today to fill in some of the implied details and see his story as it may have been.
Simon was born into a dedicated Jewish home in the North African city of Cyrene.
His parents expressed their faith at his birth by naming him Simon, the name of one of the famous sons of Jacob, the patriarch.
As Simon grew into manhood, he probably dreamed of going to the holy city of Jerusalem to observe a Passover.
Such a pilgrimage was the aspiration of all the faithful Hebrew people scattered across the world.
In fact, it was a command of God that all Jewish men go to Jerusalem every year to celebrate the Passover; but now most of the Jews lived outside of Israel and therefore could not make such a long journey.
However, Simon was a faithful follower of the Jewish faith and he worked hard to accomplish his desire.
Finally, Simon of Cyrene was about to realize his dream.
We can imagine his heart beating with excitement as he entered the Holy City for the first time.
Now he would see with his own eyes the places which he had only heard about; the temple, the Mount of Olives, and the beautiful palaces.
But something was wrong; when he arrived in Jerusalem, he found the city in an uproar.
Everyone was talking about the teacher from Galilee.
Simon discovered that his name was Jesus and that He had a large following.
The people that he met in the streets were sharply divided over Jesus’ identity.
Some felt certain that He was the long-awaited Messiah, but others considered him a false prophet.
There were reports that the leaders of the people were planning His death.
It was the day of the great Passover when Simon entered the city, and he stumbled upon a strange spectacle.
He saw a noisy crowd clustered around a band of soldiers.
In the midst of the soldiers was an obviously weary man bearing a Roman cross.
He was bleeding from a crown of thorns, and experience told Simon that He had probably been whipped with a scourge across his back.
It was impossible to make out the man’s features; He must have been hit many times in the face.
Most of the crowd was heckling the condemned man.
Some spit on Him and occasionally He was pelted with stones.
The soldiers were prodding Him to hasten His step.
Any observer could see that the man was about to fall beneath the weight of the cross.
When Simon saw what was happening, he decided to stay in the shadows.
Just then the soldiers decided they had had enough of the slow pace of the tired criminal.
They wanted to finish their assignment. They glanced around for someone to carry the cross, and their eyes fell on Simon.
One of them grabbed Simon.
“You!” He growled. “You take this cross out to the hill.”
Because he was a Jewish man, Simon was powerless to refuse.
Roman soldiers had the power to conscript any non-Roman anytime they pleased.
If Simon refused, he would receive the same fate as the condemned man.
So he shouldered the cross and followed the soldiers to Golgotha.
The only friends, which the criminal appeared to have, was a group of women who followed closely behind Him.
Their sobbing and expressions of love were the only kindness that the man received.
Maybe it was the outcry of these women that caused Simon to take a second look at the condemned man.
Somewhere along the way, he became aware that he was bearing the cross of Jesus of Nazareth.
It is easy for us to see that the soldiers unknowingly granted Simon a tremendous favor.
Any of us who know Jesus would have been glad to carry the cross.
Yet in a real sense, the opportunity to bear His cross is always with us.
The cross symbolized all the shame and reproach that accompanied the life and death of Christ.
The cross was what it cost our Lord to do the will of His Father.
If we choose to walk in His ways, we too will bear His cross.
This event changed Simon’s life forever.
What a favored man!
Now that the stage has been set for today’s message, the first thing I want to claim is that THE FAVOR OF CROSS-BEARING MAY BE HIDDEN.
Listen again to our text, “Then they compelled a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus, as he was coming out of the country and passing by, to bear His cross” (Mark 15:21).
No doubt Simon saw nothing good in the ordeal at first.
At best he viewed it as an inconvenience.
Bearing the cross took time away from other activities he had planned for this special day.
He had not planned on such an interruption.
Simon’s resentment probably went even deeper.
Being treated like a common slave on what was to be the greatest day of his life was just too much.
It hurt his pride.
He may have said to himself, “Would the people think that I am a disciple of Jesus, or would someone think it was my cross?”
What if he met one of his friends on the way?
Cross bearing never seems to be a favor at first.
What was your first reaction to cross-bearing?
Were you surprised how others treated you simply because you were a Christian?
How could anyone question your motives and accuse you wrongly?
Jesus knew this would be a problem for his disciples, so he gave frequent and thorough instructions on the matter, exhorting his disciples to rejoice whenever they bore the shame of the cross.
The favor of cross-bearing may be hidden to the natural eye, but it is seen by those who walk in the Spirit.
The apostle Paul describes such suffering as a “gift.”
We are favored by the Lord when we suffer shame for Him.
The second thing that I want to claim is that THE FAVOR OF CROSS-BEARING SHOULD BE ACKNOWLEDGED.
It should be acknowledged in our public commitment.
We are not told when Simon actually became a disciple of Jesus.
The fact that his name is given here can be taken as proof that the story of his conversion must have circulated widely among the early Christians.
It is likely Simon was born again on the Day of Pentecost.
I can say that because Luke reports that men from Cyrene were among the three thousand converts that day.
We can only speculate how Simon came to believe, but the manner in which Jesus died must have impressed him.
Jesus showed no fear throughout the ordeal but showed a remarkable peace instead.
The only times He said anything were to pray to God or to help someone.
He never appealed to the soldiers for mercy or accused them of injustice.
Jesus was crucified on Friday, but by Sunday the report of Jesus’ resurrection had been circulated throughout the city.
Simon stayed on in Jerusalem and he had been thinking about the Man and His death for fifty days.
Then he heard Simon Peter, a disciple who had faltered during the ordeal because of fear, declaring boldly that this same Jesus is both Lord and Christ.
Then Simon of Cyrene was compelled to believe.
He stepped out from the crowd and willingly accepted baptism in water by one of the apostles, a public acknowledgment that bearing the cross was a favor.
He was ready and willing to bear shame for Jesus.