I never really know what to make of Simon of Cyrene. And I know what you're thinking....who? Simon of Cyrene is one of the most major minor characters in all of Scripture. He is the man who, found passing in the road, was forced to carry Jesus's cross a portion of the way to Golgotha.
First of all, that's rather interesting in an of itself, don't you think? The Romans were known for their brutality, and the case of Jesus was no different. They flogged Him to the fullest extent of the law, a full 39 lashes of metal-tipped whip against His back. They stripped Him naked, then clothed Him again, then stripped Him naked. They fashioned a crown of thorns and pressed it onto His head with such force that the thorns broken into His flesh and blood started dripping down His face. They taunted Him mercilessly. They were leading Him out of the city to a place where they were about to drive massive spikes through His hands and His feet. And yet, in the middle of all of this, when His strength was struggling, when exhaustion was starting to take over His body, when the weight of His cross was becoming too much to bear (just minutes before it would bear His weight), the Roman guard had mercy on Him and found someone else to carry that Cross.
You might be tempted to think, from this one small scene, that perhaps...just perhaps...they cared. Even a little.
Maybe. But it's far more likely that they were primarily interested in simply getting Him to Golgotha. If He collapses from sheer exhaustion on the road, if the weight of the Cross crushes Him before it can bear Him, then they don't get to crucify Him. They don't get to make the biggest spectacle of Him. Maybe they just toss His body to the side of the road, peel the beam off His shoulders, and keep going on out to the criminals who were waiting on that hill.
Maybe the Son of Man just becomes...forgotten. A victim of the Romans, but not a glorious victim of theirs. Little did they know how glorious He was about to be. (And as we saw on Monday, He had to be crucified.)
So anyway, we've got this guy name Simon who is passing by on the road. I would venture to guess that Simon probably wasn't going the same way as the crowd. In fact, the Gospels tell us that he was coming in from the country while the rest of the mob was going out of the city. So the Romans pull him into the fray and shoulder him with Jesus's cross and force him not just to carry this cross, but to turn around and go back the very way from which he was coming.
Now, there are probably all kinds of people to choose from here. There are plenty of men and women, even a bunch of the Sanhedrin or council guys, who are already headed that way. They aren't about to miss the spectacle of it all. They aren't about to miss their chance to see this Rabble-Rouser get His due. Any one of these guys would have been a good candidate for cross-carrying.
But no. They pick the one guy who seems to have the least to do with it. They pick the one guy who is walking the other way. They pick the one guy who isn't part of the madding crowd.
And isn't that how it is?
There are a lot of people in this world who just want to be part of the spectacle, for whatever reason. They just want to be in the headlines. They just want to be part of whatever big thing is going on. You know the type.
But there are plenty of people, too, who are just going about their business. They're just living their lives. They're just doing the next thing they have to do, whatever that is. And it's here, from this quiet place, that they get drawn into the story of God in some amazing ways. It's here that they become part of the bigger narrative. It's here that their story turns around, and they find themselves marching toward Calvary with a cross that is not their own.
I never really know what to make of Simon of Cyrene, but I love his story. And I guess it's because it's such a poignant reminder of God's true nature. Even amid the commotion, even among the crowds, even in the midst of the spectacle, God's most amazing moments are the quiet ones.