Simon of Cyrene, a Jew (from his forename) from Africa, coming in late from the country, as Luke tells us for Passover, (father of Alexander and Rufus according to Mark) shows us two important things.
Firstly, we can take on the role of Simon and in that role we can be right there with Christ approaching his crucifiion. This close, there is no mistaking the difficulty and the agony of Christ; the blood sweat and tears. This great suffering is something we may shy away from and if it has done nothing else, Mel Gibson’s the Passion has shown the reality of the pain and brutality of Jesus’ death. Yet that film also includes an extremely poignant portrayal of Simon of Cyrene.
We see a man, taken from the crowd, forced to the ignominy of helping what a new arrival like himself would assume to be a criminal about to be executed. Yet in sharing Christ’s burden with him, in travelling on that journey to Golgotha, Simon sees not only the suffering of Christ but also the witness of Christ’s passion. In that sudden degrading experience, we see Simon transformed by Christ’s presence; his humility and is endurance.
Simon’s role is thrust upon him. He felt unready and frankly hard done-by but he takes up the cross for Christ.
This is for me the second thing Simon teaches us. He not only shows us the suffering of Christ up close but also takes on Christ’s role. He takes up his Cross.
In Jesus’ own words to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to follow me must deny themselves take up their cross and follow me.
This is not an easy call. Being of the world is the easy call. Being of Christ is the tough call.
Nevertheless Jesus calls us, as Simon was called, to follow in his name.
In many of the churches in Wycombe throughout this lent Lent, we have been studying the Beatitudes and the example of Simon of Cyrene reminds me of another statement of Blessedness:
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
So often to represent Christ seems the hard choice in life not something we might consider blessed. Just as we have been unravelling the complexities of the beatitudes in our lent groups; Jesus assertion that those, who some might considered to be suffering are in fact blessed.
Blessed are the poor in Spirit.
Blessed are those who mourn.
Just as in these statements of the beatitudes, Christ was saying that those who opened up their hearts and eyes to acknowledge their spiritual poverty, to mourn over the state of the world by seeing it through Christ’s eyes, so too, with Simon it is right to say:
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. .
Not because the one who comes in the name of the Lord will have an easy time.
Simon would have been reviled for being forced to carry the cross of Jesus, yet he was blessed by his own self-sacrifice and we too, if we take up our cross, no matter how tough that might make life for us, we may be considered blessed to come on the name of the Lord.
However, if we can take up that cross and deny ourselves If we, like Simon, can truly take on Christ; be in Christ in the agony of Good Friday then we can truly come to be with Christ in the Joy of Easter and then we will be blessed.