Now as they led Him away, they laid hold of a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, who was coming from the country, and on him they laid the cross that he might bear it after Jesus. (Luke 23:26)
Simon, the Cyrene, was from Northern Africa. He presumably traveled a long way to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem and was on his way to the temple to pray and be a part of the Passover festivities. He most likely prayed for God to bless him and make him closer to God. Simon was on a mission. Imagine how he felt when the Roman guards called on him to carry Jesus’ cross. It was the law they could order a non-Roman to carry a load for a mile. If he refused, he would be beaten and jailed.
No doubt Simon didn’t understand carrying the cross was an answer to his prayer to be closer to God. God answers our prayers in unexpected ways. As Simon carried the cross, no doubt passers-by thought he was a criminal. The cross was heavy, and it symbolized death. The Roman soldiers crucified many.
Jesus collapsed under the weight of the cross. After his torture, he could barely put one foot in front of the other. On that half mile journey to the hill at Golgotha, just outside of the Jerusalem gates, Simon followed Jesus for probably over an hour. He bore the cross after Jesus, so Jesus’ life-giving blood was on the cross, touching him directly. Following Jesus closely, he must have felt the love and life pouring from his wounds.
This story gives the cross more meaning. In addition to symbolizing great sacrificial love leading to the peace of bearing no sin and eternal life with God, the cross also embodies death to our human desires in order to join up with Christ. It is an exciting journey of love in which our prayers and dreams are answered and carried out in unexpected ways.
Dearest Heavenly Father. You know the future and potential you’ve created in me, so you’ve closed a door in my life. The life I was so excited about would have bound me in chains of unhappiness, unable to use my gifts. Right now I feel worse than Simon of Cyrene because he’s stronger than I am. I relate more to Jesus who could barely walk. This cross is too heavy, Lord. Give me the desire to talk to Jesus throughout the day because he loves me and understands the torture I’m experiencing. He will lead me through and expel me from the valley of the shadow of death, comforting me. Help me see quickly how this cross isn’t a burden but Your loving assistance to promote me into a life of happiness, fulfilling the dreams you’ve placed in my heart with the many gifts you’ve given me. In Christ’s name I pray, amen.