21 They pressed into service a passer-by coming from the country, Simon of Cyrene (the father of Alexander and Rufus), to bear His cross.
Simon was pressed into service (a Greek word commonly used of coercing slaves and animals in work). It was an example of Rome’s power over a subjugated people. They could lay the flat of their sword on your shoulder and compel you to go one mile carrying their baggage. Jesus refers to this when he teaches: If you are compelled to walk one mile, walk two. We call that: “Going the extra mile.” Not sure how far Simon had to go… but it had to be the longest mile or two he ever took.
There were two parts to the cross, the patibulum (the beam) and the stipes (the post). The victim was to carry his own patibulum to the site of the crucifixion site. It was a heavy weight… particularly for Jesus who was losing too much blood from his flogging and the ghastly “coronation” he endured by the soldiers.
Simon was from Cyrene which was on the north coast of Africa. This may indicate that Simon was a man of color. Mark includes two other names: Alexander and Rufus (known by the readers?) Mark doesn’t name a lot of people in his Gospel. Here are 3 names in one verse. We do know that Rufus was a member of the early church (Romans 16:13). It is not much of a stretch to imagine that Simon of Cyrene might have been the first disciple to literally follow the command of Christ to “take up his cross and follow.”
How about you? Have you taken up yours? Are you following the suffering Jesus?
You might ask me: How do I do that? How will I know if I have done it? You will know it because you will notice the increased weight.
Heard a story recently about a business man who visited the great Passion Play in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Afterward he went backstage to meet the actor who portrayed Jesus. As they talked, the man saw the cross that the actor carried in the play.
Before the actor had a chance to stop him, the business man handed over his camera and said, “Hey, take a picture of me carrying the cross.” And He bent over and tried in vain to lift the huge cross to his shoulders.
With sweat rolling down his face, he turned in frustration to the actor and said, “I thought it would be hollow; why is it so heavy?”
With a smile of compassion the actor answered, “If I could not feel the weight of it, it would be impossible to play the part.”
Are you like Simon?
Are you devoted, faithful, embracing of suffering, vigilant, ultimately bearing the suffering of others? Count the cost; take up your cross; feel the weight of it all.