On this Good Friday, I decided to read Mark’s account of what happened on that Friday when Jesus was sentenced, crucified, died, and buried. I’m not sure why, but today I was struck by one sentence, one verse, in this passage:
A man named Simon, who was from Cyrene, was coming in from the country just then, and they forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. (Simon is the father of Alexander and Rufus.) -Mark 15:21, New Living Translation
That’s it. The Bible tells us little more about this man, and any other Bible reference to his sons (see Romans 16:13) seems like speculation, although it’s kind of cool to wonder!
Yet I started thinking about this guy, just a common man from the country who came to Jerusalem, like many others, to celebrate Passover. This man got caught up in something he probably knew nothing about, and he was forced to carry Jesus’ cross.
I doubt that Simon realized at the time the significance of what was happening to him. I doubt he realized in the moment that he had actually come face to face with the ultimate Passover Lamb, the Lamb of God, who was in the process of taking away the sins of the world (including Simon’s; see John 1:29). Perhaps he knew that carrying a Roman cross declared one’s guilt, but I doubt that he understood that this man whose cross he was carrying was innocent of this or any crime. I’m guessing Simon didn’t consider this to be a very good Friday at the time.
I can relate to this Simon. Like him and like you, I have found myself in circumstances I do not understand. I have no idea how God is working in and though this situation. It just seems things are out of control and often life has felt like a huge burden to carry. It’s easy to miss God’s bigger picture, his bigger purpose. Ultimately, I relate to Simon because, like him, I know I am the one who is guilty and yet Jesus took the cross and died upon it. The Holy One took the death penalty for the guilty ones so the guilty ones could become holy in God’s eyes. Amazing.
I don’t know if Simon got this at the time. Many feel he did eventually, though, and that he is called out by name here because he and his family were known in the church years later. I don’t know about that. but I do know that the the same Jesus that Simon encountered by chance that Good Friday is the Jesus who I am trusting this Good Friday.
By the way, as I thought about this verse today, I was reminded of the old song by Ray Boltz, “Watch the Lamb.” Yeah, it’s a little cheesy and I have some doubts about the historical accuracy (it’s just a fictional story based on that one sentence in the gospels), but it does bring Good Friday into perspective. Here it is: