For the Simon’s of this world …
Luke 23: 26-31
As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. 27 A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. 28 Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30 Then “‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!” 31 For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
Simon set out from his Jewish community in North Africa for the Passover pilgrimage totally unaware that he would return with a story that he would never have imagined.
Luke has constantly been telling his readers that the Jesus’ call is to take up your cross and follow him. It was Simon who modelled this.
I hear the word ‘calling’ so much. I am called to do. I am called to be. I am called to lead. We are not short of making bold claims either. ‘God has called me to …’
All that is good. But let’s talk more of the call to pick up the cross and follow him.
Little did Simon realise that day when the cross beam was placed on his shoulders that 2,000 years later people would still be talking about him.
We don’t know why Jesus could not carry his cross. Of course the Roman flogging and the torture had been a death itself, so he was weakened by that. Perhaps he knew Simon was in the crowd. If he knows where all the fish are and if he knew what people were not only whispering but thinking, then it is not beyond the possibility that he knew Simon had arrived and he would be dragged from the crowd to model something that he had been teaching his disciples many times. The road to the cross is the road of surrendering oneself to the purposes of God even if you had other hopes and plans. Simon modelled the life of humility as he followed behind Jesus.
So here is the picture.
The crowds of people. Many who liked a crucifixion; many who saw another rebel leader and movement coming to an end; many in support of the religious leaders who had brought this to an end.
Amongst the crowd were the women mourning and wailing as one does at a funeral. They are crying over the failure of this leader. He had been so kind and had touched their world but now huge disappointment fell on them, their kind world was over.
Then there is Jesus. He knew that he wasn’t deserving of this death. He wasn’t the dry tree which was ready for destruction. He was a green tree. He had come to bring them the Kingdom. He had come to heal and to help them. If this is what they do to the green tree, what will happen to the genuine dead leaders? How much more will their destruction be?
Where are the 12? We’re not sure exactly where they are. But what we do know is that they are not following Jesus.
Then there is Simon.
The Simon’s of this world model Jesus. They follow Jesus in such a way that they not only carry their own cross but they carry the cross of Christ. Carrying your own cross is to lay down your own hopes and dreams. But to take the cross of Christ is to share in his sufferings. It is to wash feet of those who will betray, deny and desert you. It is to learn silence when every defensive desire wants to rise within. It is knowing when to take the lower ground and risking people thinking you have done wrong when all you are doing is showing humility. “Why isn’t God rescuing him?” It is knowing when to take the higher ground and not dive into the stupid arguments and divisions that so many base their life around.
When you have found such a Simon then you know it is possible for you also.