GOOD FRIDAY/SIMON OF CYRENE: The sun has set on this Good Friday. Throughout the day, you may have heard multiple sermons on Jesus’ last utterance at Calvary. Perhaps, some even heard the message of the cruel ordeal that Jesus suffered under the Roman-style torture. His flogging exceeded the Hebrew’s cautionary standard of thirty-nine (39) lashes. Researchers of the Shroud identify over 100 marks. His flesh was torn from His body, as two lictors, one on each side, flogged Jesus to near death. You may have heard or seen the flagellum instrument (whip) that was comprised of small balls, nails, stones, metal, and sharp sheep bones. The Word describes how Jesus endured additional pain (crown of thorn pressed in skull) and ridiculed, when taken before Pilate (Matt. 27:27-31). Afterwards, Jesus was ‘led’ out of the common hall called Praetorium (Mark 15:16); bloody and too weak to carry the cross as was the common practice before crucifixion.
However, you may not have heard today or may ever hear: Jesus bore the cross for humanity, but Simon of Cyrene, an African, carried the cross ALL the way to Calvary (Matt. 27: 32). He was not hiding in the crowd, on the Via Dolorosa Road, as some of the disciples. It was not difficult to find Simon, as he bravely waited, early in the morning, outside of the common hall. Why was he there? I speculate that Simon was an endeared follower and was waiting to get a glimpse of his Savior and his friend; willing to help in any way. Not compel or forced! Simon was not a stranger passing into the city (Mark 15:21) or passing out the city (Luke 23:26), but rather was known in ‘The Way’ (Christian community) by Jesus and some of the other followers. The writings of the Apostles Mark and Paul supports this supposition (Research for yourself. Begin with Mark 15:21; Romans 16:13). Three of the writers of the Gospel identify Simon by name and origin of birth. They knew him. Mark identifies his sons, Alexander/Rufus, (Mark 15:21). Yes, they knew him! Simon was not a stranger, but known in the community of faith.
Now, why is this fact so important? For some, you may see no relevance. But, for others, you may be drawn closer to this biblical narrative because of cultural identification, which is often omitted in history, as well as in biblical narratives, Christian expositions (writings), and even in our exultation (preaching) of the Word. Perhaps this Sunday, servant-leaders, we will not overlook the journey to Golgotha. There are many lessons to be discovered, here, on the road to Calvary!