They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus (Mark 15:21).
Simon of Cyrene was the first person to encounter Jesus' cross in an up close and personal way. He was simply minding his own business, coming in from the country after a hard day's work. As he approaches his home, he is enlisted... no... he is drafted... he must do for Jesus what Jesus now cannot do for himself. He must carry Jesus' cross.
Simon was well aware of the evil reality of crucifixion. It was nothing more than state-sponsored terrorism to keep the masses civil and cooperative. He had seen it often, as did the other inhabitants of Jerusalem. So, now, Simon seems to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. He is drafted by the Centurion in charge to carry the cross beam for this Jesus, this condemned criminal, who will be nailed to it in painful agony.
Mark is intentional in stating that this Simon who carried the cross by happenstance, had sons who were obviously believers. How did this happen? Did Simon pass his faith on to his sons? Did this encounter with the cross in an up close and personal way, give Simon a perspective never previously considered? Did he see in Jesus a man dying in a way he had never seen before?
We live in a culture of choice. We have deceptively believed that we get to choose, that we get to determine our own destinies. But then Simon walks into the picture and contrary to what he is expecting, he finds himself carrying the cross of someone who will die, not only for him, but for the sins of the world. Simon has no choice; he must put upon his shoulders what Jesus is unable to carry. It's Simon's "no choice" that leads to "his choice" to follow Jesus.
We do not know the details, but one thing we can say with certainty-- Simon, who was simply minding his own business, is forced to encounter the cross of Jesus-- and he becomes convinced that Jesus' cross is like no other. He becomes a disciple, and he passes that faith on to his children, Alexander and Rufus. And they pass the faith on to others.
To encounter the cross is to carry what Jesus looks to us to bear. Simon did so and it changed his life and the lives of his children forever.
Have we been so changed?
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