Somber eyes peer out from the painting Simon of Cyrene by contemporary Dutch artist Egbert Modderman. Simon’s eyes reveal the immense physical and emotional burden of his responsibility. In the biblical account from Mark 15, we learn that Simon was pulled from the watching crowd and forced to carry Jesus’ cross.
Mark tells us that Simon was from Cyrene, a big city in North Africa with a large population of Jews during Jesus’ time. Most likely Simon had journeyed to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. There he found himself in the middle of this unjust execution but was able to perform a small but meaningful act of assistance to Jesus (Mark 15:21).
Earlier in the gospel of Mark, Jesus tells His followers, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (8:34). On the road to Golgotha, Simon literally did what Jesus figuratively asks His disciples to do: he took up the cross given to him and carried it for Jesus’ sake.
We too have “crosses” to bear: perhaps an illness, a challenging ministry assignment, the loss of a loved one, or persecution for our faith. As we carry these sufferings by faith, we point people to the sufferings of Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross. It was His cross that gave us peace with God and strength for our own journey.
And that’s the memo.
By Lisa Samra and Our Daily Bread