Monday, March 08, 2010

Simon of Cyrene: “Crucial Man”

A student was drifting off to sleep in class again when the teacher finally had enough and pounded the desk. “You know, if you would quit goofing off at night and get a good rest, you will be able to stay awake and in the ‘land of the living.’” The student sleepily replied, “but I’m a superhero at night.”

Ok, perhaps this is not the best example of the one who comes swooping down into a desperate situation to bring a victim to victory. Nevertheless, we nowadays are in awe of that masked man (though we know him as an outside observer). Who was he? Where does he come from? (**whoosh**) There he goes.

There is a man in the Bible who very closely fits this approximation. His name is Simon, and he comes in a very unusual circumstance at a very unusual time. Unusual, because it is the hero of mankind (as it were), our Savior who is in distress. We don’t know much about the man—he suddenly disappears as fast as he appears; and, something incredible happens to him.

After they had mocked Him, they took the scarlet robe off Him and put His own garments back on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him. As they were coming out, they found a man of Cyrene named Simon, whom they pressed into service to bear His cross.” (Matthew 27:31-32)

After they had mocked Him, they took the purple robe off Him and put His own garments on Him. And they led Him out to crucify Him. They pressed into service a passer-by coming from the country, Simon of Cyrene (the father of Alexander and Rufus), to bear His cross.” (Mark 15:20-21) We are told he has two boys, Alexander and Rufus, but we don’t know if these are the same Alexander of Acts 19 and Rufus of Romans 16.

When they led Him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, coming in from the country, and placed on him the cross to carry behind Jesus.” (Luke 23:36)

The Gospel of John contains no mention of this man and perhaps the most striking of all these descriptions is Luke’s: the cross of Jesus was placed on Simon, who carried the cross behind Jesus. Behind Jesus.

Before the crucifixion, Jesus had some very specific words to His disciples and the crowds. “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.’” (Matthew 16:24). “And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.’” (Mark 8:34) “And He was saying to them all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.’” (Luke 9:23)

Nothing is ever explained about Simon until he is required to carry the cross of Christ. We’ve never heard of him before. He just appears out of nowhere. Once they reach Golgotha, he disappears and we never hear from him again. Nevertheless, here he is at the most crucial time, in the most crucial place, fulfilling the most crucial role. The term “crucial” is not used lightly, as the root of the word is “crux,” or “cross.”

The inference is too great to miss: to follow Jesus, one does so from the cross-roads of his life. Simon was able to do what he did in the way that Jesus told everyone: to follow Me, you must stop being you, take up a cross and follow. Luke could not have made that more clear. Simon of Cyrene was doing what Simon Peter said he would do and was nowhere to be found.

Spurgeon gives these words: “but let us comfort ourselves with this thought, that in our case, as in Simon’s, it is not our cross but Christ’s cross which we carry . . . you carry the cross after Him. You have blessed company; your path is marked with the footprints of your Lord.” How interesting that John’s Revelation does include the description of a very particular group of people who “follow the Lamb wherever He goes” (14:4).

I wonder how much Simon knew of Jesus, whose blood was smearing his clothes? Did he just happenstance show up in Jerusalem for Passover?

With how much heart, mind, soul and strength did He follow the Lamb of God?

What was he thinking as he bore the weight?

As he left Golgotha?

There is a definite picture of the New Testament truth to the Old Testament reality. Hebrews 13:13, “So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach.” Spurgeon observed, “Jesus, bearing His cross, went forth to suffer without the gate. The Christian’s reason for leaving the camp of the world’s sin and religion is not because he loves to be singular but because Jesus did so; and the disciple must follow his Master . . . In like manner Christ’s people must “go forth unto him.” They must take their position “without the camp,” as witness-bearers for the truth. They must be prepared to tread the straight and narrow path . . . Jesus would have his people “go forth without the camp” for their own sanctification. You cannot grow in grace to any high degree while you are conformed to the world.”

There's just no way he stepped down off that hill the same man as he went up.

Popular Posts