Friday, April 14, 2006


From Ravi Zacharias (probably the brightest Christian apologist ever and one of the most incredible thinkers period) International Ministries' Jill Carattini. Sorry for you non-religious folks, but I have to post something up since it's Good Friday:

Simon of Cyrene had every reason to be shocked. He was on his way in from the country, likely headed to Jerusalem for the Passover, when he was seized from the crowd and forced to join a procession heading toward Golgotha, the place of the Skull. They put a crossbeam on him, one to be used in the execution of a criminal, and made him carry it. The offense of this object and unchosen assignment would have been blatant to Simon and everyone around him. He had been recruited to play a role in a crucifixion, an extremely dishonorable form of judicial execution in the Roman Empire. Among Jews, anyone condemned to hang on a tree was thought accursed. Staggering in front of Simon, beaten and bloodied, was the man to whom this cross belonged.

In many ways, it was a day of shocking darkness. For Simon, thrust in the middle of angry men and wailing women, the day held a burden he did not deserve, a shame he did not seek to bear. He was on his way to celebrate the release of the Jews from the bondage of slavery--the central act of God in Israel's history--and he found himself carrying the cross of a man named Jesus.

The crowd pressed in behind them as they walked forward. Simon heard Jesus turn to the women who mourned and wailed for him and offer a curious response: "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, 'Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed! They will say to the mountains, "Fall on us!" and to the hills, "Cover us!"' For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?" (Luke 23:28-31). Simon probably would have recognized these lines as words of the prophet Hosea, the prophet God used to show Israel his heart, to demonstrate a love that would not quit despite an adulterous bride.

When they made it to Golgotha, Simon's task was finished. The beam was taken from him and the man he followed to the place of the Skull--Jesus of Nazareth--was stripped of his garment and nailed to the cross. Nothing further is mentioned about Simon the Cyrene in any of the gospel accounts of the crucifixion. Still much is left to wonder. Did he stay after the burden had been lifted from his shoulders? Did he hear Jesus cry out, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" or watch him extend the invitation of paradise to the broken criminal on the cross beside him? What went through Simon's mind as he walked behind the weak and beaten Jesus, the events of Passover interrupted by the events of the cross? Did he look on as they mocked the King of the Jews who remained silent through the insults? Was he filled with thoughts of the Passover he was missing, the life he needed to resume, as they challenged Jesus to come down from the cross? Or perhaps Simon was as disturbed by the end of the journey as he was of its beginning.

Matthew reports the conclusion of the first Good Friday and the cross that would become a stumbling block for all history: "When Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split... When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, "Surely this man was the Son of God!" (27:50-54).

It is impossible to tell what became of Simon after he carried the burden of the Christ sentenced to die. Ironically, the memorial he had celebrated his entire life—the redemption of Israel from the yoke of slavery, the blood of the unblemished lamb, the Passover hope for the liberating Messiah—was emerging before him, the slaughter of the paschal lamb. Still one thing is clear; Simon of Cyrene was on his way somewhere else and the Cross was a shocking interruption. And so it remains.

No comments: