Can you imagine what it would be like to carry the cross on which Jesus would suffer and die for the sins of the world? A passerby named Simon, who was from Cyrene was coming in from the countryside just then, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. (Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus.) And they brought Jesus to a place called Golgotha (which means “Place of the Skull”). Mark 15:21, 22
I made a cross once. Some years before we got the beautiful “old rugged cross” – a feature in our worship area – I made a cross out of treated pine for a Good Friday service. I found the experience of constructing a cross quite confronting. This was the instrument they used to put Jesus to death.
We gave out nails to those worshiping that Good Friday (some of you may recall it) and we invited them to come and “nail to the cross” something they were keen to let go. I watched the faces of those who came. Some came apprehensively, challenged by the concept of driving a nail into the cross. Some (maybe not used to wielding a hammer!) were a little tentative. Others drove in their nail with enthusiasm; glad to leave with Jesus whatever had been troubling them. Some testified later that they found the noise of the hammer resounding through the church quite confronting. I recall watching Mel Gibson’s “The Passion” and someone asking me whether I thought the violence of the crucifixion scene a bit gratuitous. I replied I don’t think you can crucify somebody gently.
We’re not told what impact carrying Jesus’ cross that day had on Simon. (Like many others, he’s only mentioned in this one, dramatic encounter with Jesus.) We can only speculate. His sons are mentioned by name; suggesting they may have been known to Mark’s readers. Alexander and Rufus are referred to in Acts and Romans. Are these the same men? Did his encounter with Jesus and his cross lead Simon to become a disciple? We can’t be sure.
Simon was not a volunteer that day. The Romans forced him to carry the cross. By contrast, Jesus offers us a choice. Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. – Luke 9:23 Jesus’ choice of words is quite confronting. Our option is whether or not to become a disciple. Once we decide affirmatively, self-denial – the way of the cross – is an imperative. As Christmas approaches and we begin our preparations to celebrate Jesus’ entrance to our world, we’re reminded that the cross casts a shadow across the stable and the baby lying there. Jesus came to give his life for us. How will we celebrate Christmas this year?
PRAYER: Father we thank you that you sent Jesus to share our humanity and that he understands the full extent of human suffering. We naturally shrink from the thought of a cross, as Jesus did in the Garden. Teach us the meaning and application of self-denial in our own times. Help us to carry our crosses for Jesus as Simon did that day. In Jesus’ name and for his glory. Amen
SONG: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross by Chelsea Moon & Uncle Daddy (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPdmmzRHlMA)