According to Luke’s gospel, Simon of Cyrene is seized by the Roman soldiers and made to carry the cross of Christ.
Simon, had you heard of this Jesus? What, oh Simon, did you feel when you first looked into Jesus’ eyes? Was your heart gripped as you saw his weeping wounds? Did you look away or did you stare intently?
Simon has been on my heart these last two weeks as I’ve sought to be present during this season of Lent. I’ve found myself filled with curiosity about what, if anything, happened for Simon that day. I’ve tried to imagine myself in his unfolding story.
I’ve wondered if Simon found himself captivated by this Jesus or if he looked to any fellow travellers and tried through his eyes to convey a message that he didn’t choose to carry this cross. I’ve wondered if he tried to voice to those around him that he was an unwilling participant in this horrifying ordeal.
I’ve wondered if compassion flowed from Simon to Jesus and if Simon offered any comforting words. I’ve wondered if Simon prayed to Yahweh to pick someone else for this task.
I’ve wondered if Simon stayed and watched Jesus’ horrific death and listened intently to hear what Jesus was saying to the criminal hanging on either side of him.
And most of all I’ve wondered if Simon became a follower of Christ. Did he become a willing carrier of a cross? And you know what? I think he did. I think I found my answer from reading some conclusions written by scholar Raymond Brown. Brown highlights for us that Simon’s sons, Alexander and Rufus, are listed in the Gospel of Mark. (Mk 15:21) Why would Mark list Simon’s sons unless he had come to know Simon following the death and resurrection of Jesus?
Significantly, Mark’s Gospel, which lists Simon’s sons, was written to the church in Rome. And in Romans 16:13 Paul writes, “Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too.” Simon’s family may well have ended up as pillars of the expatriate church in Rome!1
I’m happy to land on the thought and cling to it that Simon was transformed by looking and experiencing Jesus in such a powerful way – he did not look away. And following his experience of the weight of Jesus’ cross, he chose to follow Jesus willingly – knowing it would cost him! And every Christ-follower suffers in their journey of following Christ, but we also know a day is coming when there will be no more suffering! (Rev 21:1-4)
The image is sobering, because if we do not feel the weight of the cross, if there is no sacrifice, if there are no occasions of humiliation, we are not following Christ. 2
I believe Simon felt the weight of Jesus’ cross and it changed his life forever. I think he saw the love and compassion and commitment of Christ and could not look away. His experience of Christ transformed him.
I believe the cross is an invitation for us all to experience radical and extravagant and overflowing grace.