In honor of 121’s first Maundy Thursday event in our new building, my portion of the Journey to the Cross we did eleven years ago tonight, in the first year of our old building.
The subject tonight is a man named Simon the Cyrene. We know from his name that Simon was just a visitor to Jerusalem, probably only in town to celebrate the Passover. How did this visiting foreigner get involved in Jesus’ journey to the cross?
After being condemned to die and beaten, Jesus was given the crossbeam to His cross to carry to the crucifixion site. On the way, He collapsed, unable to make it any further. The Roman soldiers looked for someone else to carry the crossbeam, and drafted Simon. In carrying that crossbeam, Simon the Cyrene helped bear Jesus’ burden.
I wonder if perhaps God was exhibiting a sense of irony by choosing that particular man for that particular task on that particular day. Do you remember Peter, the disciple who was probably Jesus’ closest friend? Do you remember that the night before, when Jesus was arrested, Peter denied Jesus three times? That he ran away after the third time and left Jesus completely alone? Do you remember that Peter’s Jewish name was also Simon?
How do you suppose Simon Peter felt when he found out that another Simon had walked behind Jesus and carried Jesus’ cross all the way to Golgotha? Do you suppose it caused Simon Peter any sleepless nights that a stranger with his name had done more to bear Jesus’ burden than he had? I hope not, because Simon Peter helped bear Jesus’ burden in many ways after Christ’s resurrection and ascension into Heaven.
Wait, Jesus didn’t have a burden after He ascended, did He? Well, as every parent knows, there is more than one kind of burden, and the physical ones are often the easier ones. Jesus may not have a physical burden today, but He has a different kind of burden that He’s had for all of eternity.
If there’s any doubt of what that burden is, He addressed it in Luke 15. In that passage, Jesus addressed the Pharisees, who were grumbling about Him hanging around the wrong crowd. You know, the “sinners”. Jesus responded to them with three stories. If you looked in your Bible right now, you’d probably see titles above these stories like “The Lost Sheep”, “The Lost Coin”, and “The Prodigal Son”. The titles are short, sweet, easy to remember.
And wrong. Jesus wasn’t telling stories about lost coins and lost sheep and prodigal sons. He was telling stories about a Father. A Father who wouldn’t let one sheep wander off alone, a Father who wouldn’t allow one coin to go missing, a Father who would run to embrace a son who had wished him dead.
Jesus’ burden was, and is, lost people. As He walked down the Via Dolorosa that day, it wasn’t the prospect of a crossbeam and nails that burdened Jesus, it was you and me. Jesus burden was that we would come to know Him, that we would have the opportunity to spend eternity with Him.
The question today is, which Simon are we going to be like? Are we going to be like the pre-ascension Simon Peter, who had the opportunity to go with Jesus and help bear His burden, but ran out on it?
Or, are we going to be like Simon the Cyrene, who experienced the joy of walking behind Jesus, doing the only thing he could do to help bear His burden?
Of course, we all want to be like Simon the Cyrene. How can we do that? We can ease Jesus’ burden by introducing people to Him. And introducing them to Him begins by us being burdened for them in prayer.
We’ve talked a lot about being burdened, but what does that mean? Well, here’s what it’s not. Being burdened is not praying for someone five minutes a week and then getting on with life. Being burdened is this: my wife and I lead a couple’s life group, and the wife of one of the couples told us a few weeks ago that she has a friend at work that she wants to talk to about Jesus. Over the following couple of weeks, she told us that her desire had become so intense it had made her physically nauseous. That is being burdened.
Simon the Cyrene helped bear Jesus’ burden in another way. In two of the books in the Bible that mention Simon, they mention only his name. But in the third one, it says “Simon the Cyrene, father of Alexander and Rufus”. The only reason for the writer of Mark to mention Simon’s children are if his children were known to Mark’s audience. And the only reason for them to be known to Mark’s audience was if they were believers. Simon helped bear Jesus’ burden in exactly the same way that you and I can.
Go and do likewise.
Who are you burdened for today, that they will come to know Jesus and entrust their lives to Him? I had a couple of names eleven years ago when I first wrote this, and one of those names still hasn’t trusted Him. But eight years ago, I got a new name to add to the list. You know him as the WCG, the World’s Cutest (I probably should transition that to Coolest pretty soon) Grandkid.
On this Easter, let’s celebrate Jesus’ resurrection by joining Him in the burden for those He was raised to save.