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Simon of Cyrene

Simon of Cyrene

Words of Faith 2-12-19

Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2019

Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL

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Luke 23

    [26] As they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.


      This Simon has always held a place of fascination in Christian history.  We don't know much about him.  We do know that crucifixion was probably the cruelest and most painful method of death inflicted in the ancient world.  Crucifixion was reserved for the worst criminals, and by law, a Roman citizen could not be crucified. It was a horrifying thing to witness or come across.

       Condemned criminals usually carried the horizontal beam of their own crosses as part of the public humiliation.  The other Gospels report to us that the torture administered to Jesus through scourging would have made it almost impossible for Him to physically carry the cross the entire way. There was very little muscle or skin left on His back.  Of course, Jesus had the supernatural ability to end all of this in a flash or to achieve any physical feat, but in His physical strength He had been exhausted and depleted.  His path intersected with a man named Simon.

       Simon was from the town of Cyrene in North Africa.  He was forced to carry Jesus' cross part of the way to the Crucifixion site.  He did not volunteer. Roman soldiers could press anyone into service to carry things for them. Because it was a feast and work was forbidden, Simon was not coming from "the field" literally as a worker.  He was probably arriving late for the festival from Cyrene. Just arrived in town, he found himself pressed into service and suddenly part of an event he knew little or nothing about.

      Cyrene was in what is now Libya in North Africa and included a sizeable Jewish community.  Although everyone in the Middle East at the time of Jesus was of a darker skin tone than today, it is likely that Simon's skin was even darker because he was an African.  Simon probably had no idea what was going on, but this event would surely have made a dramatic impact on his life.

        Mark gives us an additional detail telling us that Simon was "the father of Alexander and Rufus."  Apparently, Mark took it for granted that his readers would all know who Rufus and Alexander were. Since Mark wrote originally to the Christian community in Rome, this suggests that Alexander and Rufus were well known to, and probably part of, the Christian congregation in Rome. We do not know for sure, but it is very possible that Alexander and Rufus witnessed this event as children and that their father Simon may have later become a Christian.

        We can only imagine how such an experience as carrying the cross of Jesus would forever change the course of life.  What permanent impact would there be after having the blood of Jesus smeared on one's clothing? It seems unlikely that Simon could have ever been the same.

        It is also interesting that in the sovereign plan of God, a man, just a man, helped Jesus in the movement toward the cross.  We know that this journey to the cross was entirely an act of God's grace.  We know that it was the work of Jesus in going to the cross that earned our place in eternity. 

         But it is also remarkable that God called upon Simon of Cyrene to participate in lifting and carrying some of the physical agonies of that journey.  He certainly paid no portion of the price for sin, but he did provide relief and aid to Jesus at a critical time.  It is a compelling picture of how God's grace is always at work through people. God regularly calls upon us to participate in the process of salvation and healing that He is accomplishing. 

         It is a great devotional thought is to ask ourselves-- How is God calling me to participate in His work of grace today?  Is there some cross that He is calling me to carry if only for a time?  What burden does God need me to lift so that His healing grace and mercy may be known?  What place is He calling me to that may involve the smear of Jesus' precious blood? 


         Father God, I want to participate in your sovereign plan.  I am available.  Whatever You may need from me today, I am here.  I surely do not have the strength in myself to accomplish the work of grace that You are doing, but I will surrender to You.  Help me to recognize my part.  Help me to complete my task. Help me to lift the burdens that will open the way for Your grace and mercy.  In Jesus' name.