When we last met, Simon was in the street near a group of soldiers, and they were clustered around a weary, beaten, and bruised man who was staggering beneath the load He was carrying: a Roman cross. One of the soldiers had grabbed Simon and ordered him to take the cross "out to the hill."
(Simon's wife resumes her story.)
Because he was a Jewish man, Simon was powerless to refuse. Roman soldiers had the authority to conscript any non-Roman -- and any time they pleased. If Simon refused, he could receive the same fate as the condemned man. The boys and I held our breath and watched as he shouldered the cross, situating it on his strong back, and then followed the soldiers to a place that I heard people call "Golgotha." Since we were new to the city, I had no idea what they meant.
The weary, bleeding Man seemed to have no one who cared for Him except a handful of women and one man. They followed closely behind Him, sobbing and calling out to Him in low, loving words. All of the rest seemed to be more energized with hate with each step along the way. I looked again at Him. I saw Simon looking at Him, too, as they walked the narrow street and then went through the gate.
Somewhere between the city and the hill, Golgotha, Simon and I became aware of the fact that he was carrying the cross of Jesus of Nazareth. We had heard snippets and rumors about Him before. We knew that He was both loved and hated by different groups of people, and that many had been healed and freed from demons.
Those soldiers unknowingly granted my Simon a tremendous blessing. We've been told by so many Christians in the years since, that they would have been glad to carry the Master's cross. Not only did Simon bring relief to Christ, but his walk to the "place of the skull" took him to the source of real life!
Our lady we study this week was married to a man whose life was changed forever by a chance meeting in the street. If he'd walked up another street instead, he never would have met Jesus, nor would he have been mentioned in three of the four gospel accounts. I would never say that I knew for sure, but there are some clues that Simon, his wife, and his sons stayed in Jerusalem, and that they were vital in the life of the New Testament church.
Mark mentions that Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus, as if his readers would be well-acquainted with those men; and it may be that Rufus was the same man that Paul later greets in a letter, saying that he was "chosen in the Lord." (Romans 16:13)
In Luke's gospel, we read that men from Cyrene were among those converted at Pentecost, and in Acts they were scattered by the persecution in Jerusalem.
There are some things that we can learn from Simon's wife. Let's dig in, shall we?
I think that Simon and his wife were people of character. The region they called home, Cyrene, was noted for its farming. As farmers, Simon and his wife were accustomed to hard work and long hours. They were up early, and worked hard all day. Their sons probably accompanied them to the fields, and when they were old enough, they joined in with small chores -- as they grew, their responsibilities would grow, as well. All of this meant that they were people of strength and endurance, no strangers to toil and hardship. Yet they had hope and faith, and journeyed to Jerusalem, because they heard of a community of faith there. Simon and his wife and sons would have been a marked contrast to the unruly mob, swaying this way and that, shrieking their insults and taunts at a battered Christ. The gospel of Mark seems to indicate that as Simon was "passing by" or going about his business, with a purposeful stride, he was turned from his plans by a soldier roughly commanding him to assist. These Cyrenians with character were on their way to accomplish something that day, but they would accomplish something much different than their plans.
Simon and his wife were not only people of character, but they were what we might call "innocent bystanders." Simon was now a sufferer, and his wife and sons shared this burden. Their purposeful day was interrupted by circumstances beyond their control -- a situation that they didn't choose, but could not avoid. Someone else's burden was thrust upon them . . .
....isn't that the way our lives go, sometimes? Some of our failures and disappointments in life are direct results of our own selfishness, hasty judgments made without prayer, or unwise decisions that hurt ourselves and others.
(Galatians 6:8)Other times, we are caught in the consequences of someone else's lack of wisdom or sin. Simon and his wife are examples of how good people suffer -- there is a widening circle of influence, like ripples on the calm surface of a pond, from individual decisions. They certainly do influence others. The old saying "no man is an island" has been shown to be true for many years, no? It's not just my business, what I do or don't do!
Simon's story, and that of his wife with him in Jerusalem, is proof positive that when we are joined to Christ we become more than we can be by our own strength. We are more than conquerors. Their experience is an assurance for us, of God's concern for those who are required to bear burdens that they did not choose.
We'll see what happens in the life of Simon's wife and family as we close our study tomorrow.