Jesus was tried and convicted. Led away from Pilate by Roman guards, the physical agony of his flogging and beating… the pressure of the crown of thorns… all this had wracked his body with pain. Yet, this day was not yet over. The worst was to come.
Station 7: Jesus Bears the Cross
John 19:16-17 (NIV)
16 Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. 17 Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha).
Those who were to be crucified had to carry their cross, historically the crossbeam. It is estimated to have weighed 125 lbs and was roughly made from thick wood. It certainly wasn’t sanded down and smooth.
To Jesus, this was sheer torture. His back and arms were likely shredded by the beatings he received with the lead tipped whip.
If you’ve ever carried anything on your back, you know things get heavy quickly… imagine doing it with lacerations on your back.
Those first steps carrying the cross must have been excruciating. The weight of the world was on his shoulders. And he would have grunted and groaned as he made his way out of Jerusalem toward Golgotha.
Scripture records Jesus stumbling and falling. The Roman soldiers certainly weren’t going to help him. They were growing tired of the slow pace. So, in typical Roman fashion, they found a “volunteer.” And by volunteer, I mean, they commanded someone to help him. This man was Simon of Cyrene.
Station 8: Jesus is Helped by Simon of Cyrene to Carry the Cross
Mark 15:21 (NIV)
“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.”
Here was Simon from Cyrene, what is part of modern day Libya now, coming into Jerusalem. Being that Cyrene was home to a large Jewish population, it’s no surprise Simon was in Jerusalem at Passover. He could have solely been there for observing the Jewish holiday, or perhaps he was there also on business. Some historians have speculated he may have even moved recently to the area.
Regardless of the why Simon was at Jerusalem that day, he found himself smack dab in the middle of history as he was force to walk with three criminals on their way to suffer the humiliation of crucifixion. Roman soldiers could command anyone at any given time to do something. Roman subjects knew they must obey. So there was Simon, minding his own business, and now he was walking alongside a beaten and bloodied Jesus.
Here he was helping to bear the burden Jesus was carrying. A stranger. A tourist. A foreigner. What an unlikely person coming alongside to help. This is another poignant reminder that Jesus had been abandoned by those closest to him. The disciples – Peter, who declared he would never deny his master – no where to be seen. John, the beloved disciple, was not even front and center during this time. Those that should have been there to rush to Jesus’ side when he fell and put their arm around him and help him carry this burden… they were not there to help.
So, Simon was pressed into service, he was literally called to pick up the cross of Christ. And this is a beautiful example of how God uses people in ways they aren’t expecting. When Jesus was abandoned, help was there from a stranger. Simon picked up the crossbar and walked the path toward Golgotha.
And this event changed his life. It changed the course of his family’s life. Mark in his account mentions he was the father of Alexander and Rufus. This was mentioned because Mark, one of the earliest Christian missionaries, would have written and spread this gospel to other churches. Alexander and Rufus were names that would have been familiar to the earliest Christians, and Mark was providing reference. It was Mark’s way of saying, “Look, those two guys you know that are leaders in the early church – their father helped Jesus get to Golgotha!”
What an incredibly legacy. Two thousand years later, we don’t know much about Simon, but we do know he was the type of father that passed on his faith to his children. We do know that he was used by God at a crucial moment in history. And we know from this part of the narrative that God likes to use the unlikeliest of people – a foreigner, away from his home country – to accomplish good in this world.
God’s peace to you this weekend!
To learn more about the Stations of the Cross bring your family and journey to the cross with a 30 minute interactive experience called Embrace the Cross on Good Friday. It is an interactive worship experience. This event is free and open to the public. KIDS ARE WELCOME and there will be activities geared specifically toward them. Sponsored by Ashley Ridge Church and Trinity Church Summerville. Find out more details at this Facebook Event Page.