(I hope that everyone will bear with me for this study. This is a person that is not really mentioned in the Bible, but we know she is there.....this will be written as a series of first-person conversations, and I will supplement with my research. Then we'll dig into the study.)
I'm Simon's wife.
No, no, not that Simon! I know that everyone knows him - he's famous! But we call him Peter now, since our Master did. He is the leader of the church here in Jerusalem, and everyone loves to hear his story. He is so strong and brave now, especially after Pentecost. When he tells of the time he denied the Lord, and then He forgave him.....oh, how we love to hear that, because we all sin and need to ask for forgiveness each day.
No, my Simon is sometimes called Simon "of Cyrene." He stands taller than many of the men here, and his broad shoulders carry many burdens for the people of the church. It sometimes seems like yesterday when he and I (and our sons) came to Jerusalem from our country.
(Mark 15:21)Cyrene is such a long way from Jerusalem. (It is on the northern coast of modern-day Africa, in Libya.) There were many Jews there, but we wanted to rejoin the folks in our native Israel. We received word that there was a community there called the Synagogue of the Freedmen, and the members were people like us; Jews from other provinces like Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia, and Asia. Simon was anxious to return and search for our kin, and to be there in time for the Passover, too.
It was difficult to pack up all of our belongings, tell the boys about the trip, and say goodbye to all of the friends we'd made in Cyrene. But Simon felt an urging in his spirit; he said we "must go." He had been born into a devoted Jewish home in Cyrene, and his parents had joyfully named him Simon, honoring him with the name of one of the famous sons of Jacob. Even before we were married, Simon had confided that it was his dream to go to the holy city of Jerusalem, to observe the Passover. He worked hard to save money after our marriage, and continued to hope for the Passover trip. Then when our sons, Alexander and Rufus, were born, he began thinking about joining the community of the Synagogue of Freedmen, and raising our sons in Israel. We told our sons about the sights they would see....the great temple, the beautiful palaces, the Mount of Olives.
And so we arrived in the outskirts of Jerusalem. But something seemed wrong -- the entire city seemed to be in an uproar. Everyone that Simon and I spoke to, was talking about Jesus, the teacher from Galilee -- some spoke in positive words about Him, but others were venomous in their speech. He seemed to have a large following, for many that Simon met felt certain that Jesus was the Messiah. But others denounced Him as a false prophet. There were even rumors that the leaders of the people were planning his death!
As we entered the city, Simon strode ahead; his long legs always made it a challenge for us to keep up with him, when he was walking with purpose! But his height made it easy to keep track of him! Simon told me later that he stumbled upon a strange spectacle. He saw a noisy crowd clustered around a band of soldiers -- but in the middle of the group was a weary man, bearing a Roman cross. By the time Simon paused (and we caught up) we could all see the crown of thorns pressing into the man's forehead, and the drops of blood coursing down His face. I looked away, and pressed the boys' faces into my robe so that they would not see . . . His face was so bruised, and we could tell that He'd been whipped with a Roman scourge because His back was bleeding, too.
I could tell He was in pain; but He seemed so calm, and so composed. Even when the crowd was heckling Him, spitting on Him, even pelting Him with stones. They shrieked at Him with a harshness that was difficult to believe. I felt so bad for Him. The soldiers were prodding Him to hurry and walk faster, but anyone could see that He was about to fall under the weight of that huge cross. The soldiers looked around for someone to carry the cross, and their eyes fell on Simon - head and shoulders above much of the shrieking mob.
One of them grabbed Simon's sleeve -- "here, you!" he rasped. "You take this cross to the hill."
We'll continue our story next time . . . .