by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
Title: A Man Passing Through the Crowd
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: Mark 15:16-32
Let me begin our lesson by reading verses 16-32 from the fifteenth chapter of Mark. “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. And the inscription of His accusation was written above: THE KING OF THE JEWS. With Him, they also crucified two robbers, one on His right and the other on His left. So the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And He was numbered with the transgressors.” And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself, and come down from the cross!” Likewise, the chief priests also, mocking among themselves with the scribes, said, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Even those who were crucified with Him reviled Him.”
“Where you there when they crucified my Lord?” Simon of Cyrene was. 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! Although Simon recoiled at the demand to carry Jesus’ cross, the experience led to a complete turnaround in his life. Not only did Simon bring relief to the weak and emaciated body of Jesus, his walk to the place of the skull took him to the source of real life.
THERE ARE FOUR THINGS TO NOTICE ABOUT SIMON, AND THE FIRST IS, HE WAS A CYRENIAN WITH CHARACTER.
Cyrene was noted for its farming. As a farmer, Simon was accustomed to hard work, and his body probably gave evidence of physical strength and endurance. The soldiers did not have time to waste to lay the cross on a man unused to toil and hardship. They no doubt picked Simon because of his obvious physical strength.
Our text says that Simon was “passing by”—going about his business. No doubt he had begun the day early in the morning and he had big plans that day. Simon was a marked contrast to the unruly mob moving from Pilate’s palace to Calvary. They had been easily distracted from meaningful work and gave shouts of allegiance to anyone who could arouse their emotions. This Cyrenian with Character was on his way to accomplish something.
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