Simon of Cyrene
From a booklet called 'Who were there?'
Simon from Cyrene, chief city of a country on the north coast of Africa, modern Libya. Why was he there? Probably for the Passover. He'd spent the night in some nearby village. The city was overcrowded, and lodgings hard to get. Just before nine that morning, on his way in for the Festival, he got mixed up with a big crowd swarming round three men being led out for execution. One of the three was Jesus of Nazareth. After long hours of physical torture and mental anguish, He was unable to carry the heavy cross-beam the soldiers had thrust on Him. He staggered and fell, just as this man Simon came on the scene. An awkward moment this, for the officer in command of the escort. He couldn't order one of his squad to take up that shameful burden: there'd be trouble if he tried to make a Jerusalem Jew do it. Nobody was keen to `touch wood' that morning! Then, glancing quickly round, the officer caught sight of Simon. He was obviously a stranger; his darker skin made it pretty certain that he'd have no friends there to take his part. The officer ordered him to pick up the man's cross and carry it for Him. A humiliating thing to have to do, in front of a crowd like this. But he had to pocket his pride, shoulder the cross-beam, and bear it up the slope. At the time, he didn't relish that gruesome job a bit. Only afterwards did he realise what a priceless privilege had been thrust on him. Because he carried that load, and saw what happened to Jesus on the green hill, his whole life was changed. In St Mark's Gospel, not only is Simon mentioned; his two sons are also. There would be no point in doing that unless they were known to the folk who read the Gospel. They must have been well-known as Christians to the Church in Rome. It looks as if what happened that morning made Simon a disciple of Jesus Christ: later on, he got his faith over to his boys. Most of us have tasks we don't like doing, things we would dodge if we could. There are hard, bitter experiences to be faced sometimes, which just don't make sense. If that's how it is with you, will you try to remember what this man found through doing the thing he couldn't avoid? He had no option. But the doing of it brought him very close to Jesus. Later on, he realised he had helped the Saviour of the world along His way, had carried the Cross for the Son of God. He helped another, and found that Other to be the Saviour, who transformed life for him and for his family. What a fine way to face the hard task, the bitter disappointment which you can't escape today. Look for the face of Christ in it. When the load seems too much for you, remember, you are helping to carry His Cross. Some people's lives seem to be run on the cafeteria system, you know: `Self-Service Only'. Simon acted on the opposite principle. He found a joy that never faded out of his life. So can you ‑ to-day.
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