by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
NEXT, I BELIEVE THAT SIMON WAS CAUGHT IN THE CLUTCHES OF CIRCUMSTANCE.
Simon was an innocent sufferer, just like the One whose cross he was forced to carry. His purposeful and determined journey was interrupted by circumstances, not of his own choosing. He had another’s burden thrust upon him. He was caught in the clutches of circumstance.
Some of our failures and disappointments came as a result of our own selfish sowing, unwise decisions, or hasty judgments. At other times we are caught in the consequences of another’s sin. Simon typifies the suffering of good people throughout all time. His experience illustrates the widening circle of influence that individual decisions have on others. “No man is an island”—that is, it is not just my business what I do. Simon’s story is proof that when we are joined to Christ we become more than conquerors. Simon’s experience is an assurance of God’s special concern for those who have to bear burdens they did not choose.
Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
In Vietnam a grenade exploded near Max Cleland, causing the loss of both of his legs and an arm. He courageously faced this tragic circumstance and in 1977 was made the head of the Veteran’s Administration. Cleland testified, “There is help available from God when we need it most.” He closed many of his speeches and interviews with this prayer written during the Civil War by a Confederate soldier:
I asked God for strength, that I might achieve,
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked God for health, that I might do greater things,
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked for riches, that I might be happy,
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men,
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life,
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for—
But everything I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am, among all men, most richly blessed.
With Christ, we can conquer the circumstances of life.
HERE IS OUR THIRD POINT, AND IT’S A QUESTION, “WAS SIMON CONVERTED AT THE CROSS?”
Mark identifies Simon as “the father of Alexander and Rufus.” These were men known to the readers of the gospel, and evidentially active in the fellowship of believers. In Romans 16:13 Paul sends greetings to a “Rufus, chosen in the Lord.” Is this the same individual—Simon’s son? Is this scriptural evidence that Simon was converted and established a Christian home that nurtured two Christian boys who became leaders in the church? I think so.
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.
How was Simon changed by his encounter with Jesus? Bitterness turned to belief; hatred became hope; shame moved to salvation. He heard Jesus pray, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Simon saw Jesus willingly give Himself, and slowly the hope of the prophets dawned into reality—“But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes, we are healed.” 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.
Arthur Blessitt, of Sunset Strip, California carried a ninety-pound cross across America and many countries of the world. Speaking at a national conference, he related how he had carried the cross across the newly opened border between Israel and Egypt soon after the historic Camp David peace treaty was signed. The Arab commander at the border asked for a piece of his cross.
Jesus said, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”
You may be passing by today—just a person in the crowd. Maybe a jeweled cross hangs around your neck. What does that mean to you? Have you taken up the cross? The way of the cross leads to forgiveness of sin, abundant life, and the defeat of death. Simon of Cyrene, a man passing through the crowd, found this amazing hope in the cross. So can you!
THERE IS SOMETHING ELSE IN THIS STORY THAT WE DON’T WANT TO MISS; IT IS THAT WE TOO ARE CALLED UPON TO BEAR A CROSS FOR CHRIST.
We sing a Hymn that says, “Must Jesus bear the cross alone and all the world go free? No, there is a cross for everyone, and there is a cross for me.” I read that there was another version of this hymn which says, “Must Simon bear the cross alone, and the saints go free? Each saint of Thine shall find his own, and there is one for me.”
Each one of us is called the bear the cross of Jesus. You find this place of favor willingly. The cross will not be forced on you. You must make a public commitment of your life to Jesus Christ. You must be willing to bear any shame or suffer any loss in His service. Will you join Simon of Cyrene beneath the cross?
“My God, why … ?” is not an unknown prayer among Christians. We ask, “Why did she contract cancer?” “Why was I fired?” “Why does God seem to forget us?” Yet Jesus, after having uttered, “My God, why … ?” on the cross, then whispered, “It is finished,” signaling not only the end of his suffering but the completion of his work.
Let me leave you with this true story I read about two faithful women, who were cross-bearers for Christ. Irene Ferrel graduated from the Bible Institute of Los Angeles with a burden for overseas missions. She found her place in the Congo, where for 10 years she taught school, shared Christ, and worked in a dispensary in the Kwilu bush. In 1964, Communist rebels mounted guerrilla raids to overthrow the government. Missionaries in the Kwilu Province were threatened. Irene and her co-worker Ruth Hege decided to evacuate from their station. A helicopter was ordered, and on January 24, 1964, the two prepared to leave. They packed essential belongings, and then gathered their Congolese workers for a final time of worship. The final songs died down, the last prayers were offered, and the women began anticipating the chopper’s arrival. When it didn’t come, they decided to retire and rise early to await it the next day. Shortly after midnight, young, intoxicated rebels attacked. The youngsters, some barely teenagers, were smoking hemp, smashing windows, and screaming for blood. Storming the house, they dragged the women from their beds and danced around them in wild circles in the moonlight. One youth shot an arrow into Irene’s neck. With her last ounce of strength, she pulled it out, whispering, “I am finished,” and died. Ruth Hege, also struck by arrows, pretended to be dead, not even moving when one of the rebels jerked out a handful of her hair. Only after the attackers finally ran into the forest could Ruth crawl to safety. Many other Christians perished during the 1960s Congolese turmoil. It was a killing time.
Why was the helicopter late? Why do God’s servants sometimes perish? We’ll understand someday. Most likely, we will never be called upon to go through anything like these two wonderful women had to suffer. But each of us has a cross to bear for Jesus. Let’s bear our cross joyfully, and serve our Lord until we go to be with Him. Until then we trust Him, knowing that His kindness never fails.
Listen to these words from Lamentations, “I tell myself, ‘I am finished! I can’t count on the LORD to do anything for me.’ Just thinking of my troubles and my lonely wandering makes me miserable. That’s all I ever think about, and I am depressed. Then I remember something that fills me with hope. The LORD’s kindness never fails.” (Lamentations 3:18-22)
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