March 5, 2015 Comments Off on The Third Station: The Cross is Laid on Simon of Cyrene
And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. (Mark 15:21)
It is no secret that Mark is my favorite of the Gospels. Short, pragmatic, and dramatic, it gets right to the point. Mark is honest and raw. Personally, I love a Gospel that end with the witnesses to the resurrection being terrified and telling no one. There is something so human and so in need of God about this telling of the life of Christ. His depiction of Simon of Cyrene is no exception. There is exactly one sentence.
From the text, we glean that Simon of Cyrene was not a loyal follower. He is not depicted as a worshipper of Christ. He appears to just be the victim of fate. Not much more than a random guy traveling in from another country, Simon was pressganged by the Roman soldiers into the humiliating act of caring a cross for a criminal.
Let’s stop for a moment to imagine what Simon might have felt. No doubt he was surprised in being singled out by the soldiers. You can almost hear his laments of “why me?” Likewise, I am sure he was not too happy to be linked by fate and the cross to this Jesus fellow; a criminal condemned both by Roman and Jewish authorities. He was no doubt embarrassed to be publically humiliated like this. He was at the very least irked to be held up and delayed.
Yet this little snippet is all we hear about Simon. We are left with more questions that answers. Was Simon changed by his encounter with Christ? Did he know who Christ really was? Did he stay for the grisly execution or did he get off that hill as soon as possible? Did he go on to other countries and other business or did he stick around Jerusalem for that eventful Sunday morning? We will never know.
And what about the sons of Simon, Alexander and Rufus? Why does Mark include them in this text when so many others are not named? Were they present? Or maybe they became followers and leaders in the early church? Again, we may never know.
This story is not tidy or happy. It does however present a realistic depiction of suffering. Simon’s experience mirrors many of our own experiences. How do we handle the unexpected pain and suffering that comes to us in life? How do we carry our own cross and help with the crosses of other people when to do so if difficult and confusing. I don’t have reason to believe that Simon was proud of this moment or that it was a time of particular importance or spiritual clarity. I think it was exhausting humiliation. However, that exhausting humiliation played an important role not just in death but also in resurrection.
-The Rev. Emily Phillips Lloyd