I CARRIED HIS CROSS (Mk. 15:21)
I am Simon of Cyrene. There were so many Simons in Israel that we adopted second names. Since I had lived in Cyrene North Africa, I preferred to be known as Simon from Cyrene. We settled in Jerusalem and acquired some property in the country. Every day I would go to my property and take care of the cultivating, seeding, planting, weeding and harvesting. This particular day was our preparation day for the Passover. In the evening, we would kill our lamb, smear the blood on our doorposts as a sign for the angel of death to spare us; then, we would eat our meal remembering how our ancestors were delivered from Egypt. We would also eat, in the hope that the one Moses promised, would soon come and deliver us again. So far, many had come in the name of God, but no one had delivered us from our oppressors.
I was going home early in order to prepare for our celebration. Just as I was nearing the city, I was met by a pitiful procession. Roman soldiers were leading three of our people to the place known as the skull. We saw many of these processions. The Romans must have crucified hundreds. It was the most humiliating and shameful death for our people the Jews. It was the worst curse to be hung on a tree. And they would let their victims be exposed for days. On weekends, they would hasten the death of the condemned by breaking their bones and piercing their sides. It was a very slow and cruel death. But this procession was different from any of the previous one. The main offender was badly beaten, bruised and exhausted. He had collapsed, under the heavy cross, and could no longer move. One of the soldiers had pity on the victim and ordered me to carry His cross. Of course, I had no choice in the matter. At the time, I did not even know, whose cross I was asked to bear.
Here, I was carrying a cross and experiencing what those must have felt when they carried their crosses on their last journey. My journey was only a trial experience. It was, nevertheless, an eye opener for me. It impressed on me what it meant to be exposed to such a degrading humiliation. But, that was not the worst of it. From the bystanders and weeping women, I gathered that I was carrying the cross of none other than, Jesus of Nazareth. I had heard that He was a godly man of peace. He had inspired many that I knew Him personally. Among them were John Mark, who was a friend of my sons Alexander and Rufus. I knew Mark’s mother Mary and some of the other people who frequented stayed at her home. I knew some of the women, by the roadside, weeping for Jesus. What amazed me, about Jesus, was that in spite of His weakness, He turned and comforted them. He told them not to weep over Him, but for themselves and their children. What was happening to Him was small, in comparison to what was going to happen to the people in the near future. It will be a blessing not to have had children and they will pray that the mountains would fall on them and the hills cover them. Jesus finished with this puzzling question, “If men do these things to a green tree, what will they do to a dry tree?” Yes, to what degree shall men stoop before they realize how bad things had become? I had much to ponder, while I carried Jesus’ cross.
While I was carrying that cross, I felt something was happening to me. The cross that was light, at first, grew heavier by each step I had to take. When I got to the top of the hill, I could barely carry it any longer. But that was not what captivated my thoughts. What really did, was the question, “What if it was my cross and not His?” What if I was called upon to bear a cross for a cause worth dying for? I had heard enough from my family and friends that Jesus believed, He was going to die for His cause, and that the cause was for the deliverance of mankind. In that sense, I had a small part in helping Jesus to reach His goal in our behalf. I had also heard, that Jesus believed that everyone who followed Him had to bear his or her own crosses. It was not a cross of personal needs, but one that supported Jesus’ cause. It was not about aches and pains or joys and sorrows, but about truth, justice and righteousness. It was sad that a life of a just man had to be sacrificed in order to make things right with a nation.
I, too, stood and watched from a distance how Jesus, the Christ, was being crucified. At first, I began to feel very resentful toward that ugly cross on the hill. But then I heard Jesus say, “Father forgive them; for, they do not know what they are doing.” How could Jesus say that while He was on the cross? Then He said it with compassion and surrender. There was no resentment in His voice. He said other things, I could not make out. His voice had grown weak. A soldier was trying to hand Him a sponge, but a bystander shouted, “He does not want a drink. He is calling Elijah. Let’s see what happens?” Whomever Jesus called, ended His misery. His head slammed forward and He had died. It was as if someone had put out a light. The ugly cross was used to claim another victim. It did not seem to matter, whether a person was good or bad, for those that were using the cross to dispose of those whom they feared. And our leaders did fear Jesus for no reason at all. I felt a sigh of relief that Jesus had stopped suffering. Even though carrying the cross for Jesus was exhausting, I felt content that I, of all people, was on hand to ease His burden and suffering on the road to Golgotha.
The mood at our home was depressing. We did eat our Passover in silence and in disappointment. Especially, our son Rufus and John Mark were up to something. I had heard that the boys believed that Jesus would return from the dead. When I heard that the women could not embalm Jesus body because It was missing and that two angels told them that He was alive, I had no second guesses, Who the two might have been. After that rumor, things were never the same. Jesus appeared to be everywhere.