Who was Simon the Cyrene? We read about him in 3 of the 4 gospel accounts of Jesus' crucifixion. We know he was a dad. We even know the names of his two sons: Alexander and Rufus. We know that he didn't volunteer to help Jesus...he was seized, forced to carry the cross. I wonder if his boys were with him. How old were they? What did they do when the soldiers grabbed their Daddy?
Simon was just "passing by". We read that he was on his way "in from the country." Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I looked it up on a map. Cyrene is in Lybia, Africa. Simon was actually a long way from home and I'm sure he had other plans for that day in Jerusalem. But here he is, yanked into the suffering journey of a Man like no other. Don't you wonder how he felt? Was he fearful? Begrudging? Did he keep his distance or did he take a moment to look into Jesus' sinless eyes?
The Bible is full of interesting details like this. Proper names that lend great historical value. Paul mentions a "Rufus" in Romans 16. What if it that was Simon's Rufus? I can only imagine that the journey to Golgotha would have been life-altering for all three of them.
It is interesting too, that in these same three gospels Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus is recorded saying "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." Simon had no choice but to submit to Rome and carry the cross of Christ. I, on the other hand, must choose. I'm not very good at denying myself. My Self is loud and demanding and works really hard to make sure it gets its way.
And what is "my" cross anyway? We've come a long way from the Roman Empire. It is not the cruel cross of ancient days. And mine is not a brutal submission. I know this because Jesus also said "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
Could this yoke be my cross? I'm not sure...maybe...
Look at the contrast:
Most likely Simon was exhausted at the end of that climb to Golgotha, weary and burdened after carrying the cross. It is those who are already weary and burdened that Jesus gives his invitation to come. Jesus is gentle and humble, a far cry from the Roman Soldiers who coerced Simon. The cross that Simon carried was heavy. The yoke that I am to carry is light. I have no doubt that there was great unrest for Simon and his boys that day and in the nights that followed when sleep was hard to come by. Jesus said if I carry his yoke I find rest. This burden is not the end of me. It involves learning, the promise of a future changed by growth.
Jesus is asking me to carry my cross. He is asking me to be yoked with him. This is a tender call to companionship. I will not walk alone. I love that Jesus did not walk alone. I'm glad Simon was there.