“A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross.” Mark 16:21 NIV
Have you ever been shoved into the fray, given something to do you had no desire to do, finding yourself in the centre of a drama you thought was nothing to do with you? Pity Simon of Cyrene, likely a Jewish trader minding his own business, suddenly thrown into the greatest story ever told.
Was he near the front of the crowd to see what was happening, and next thing he was the thing that was happening? Had he heard about Jesus and the amazing things that were being claimed about this miracle maker? Was he passing on the trade route, used to being respected and then suddenly identified with this troublemaker simply because of his race? That is a story that has been played out time and time again in history, I suppose; the wrong colour skin, the wrong gender, the wrong creed, in the wrong place at the wrong time. And yet. I wonder if Simon might have looked back later and remembered his sudden encounter with Jesus joyfully.
Imagine if the saviour you first came into contact with was a beaten one. A bruised and bloody mess, covered in wounds and spittle. Would you still give him your life? Or do we all hanker for a clean cut, clean shaven, pristine saviour in a suit and tie, with perfect white teeth and a sensible hairstyle? Suppose the first thing he did in his brokenness was to have you carry a heavy load? So heavy that it made your shoulder burn and cut into your flesh? Would you still want to serve him? Would he still win your heart, God struggling and failing, falling and allowing weakness to shine?
Perhaps sometimes we are surprised by the ways Jesus enters our life, how he turns the strangest, even the vilest circumstances into holy encounter. For Simon, ever famed as the carrier of the cross, this seemingly chance pressganging led him into being the first (albeit unwilling) sharer of Christ’s sufferings, and no doubt he followed the rest of the story and watched, bent and sore from the load, and burning from the indignity, as a softly spoken Jewish brother was killed by a vicious regime, and at the same time, whether he knew it or not, saw God turn meekness to majesty, tragedy to triumph, death to life. Nothing would be the same ever again.
Photo by Jesster79 on Wikimedia used under creative commons license.