• johned@aibi.ph

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Eternity 48 - The Passover Pilgrim

Mark 15:21 ASV And they compel one passing by, Simon of Cyrene, coming from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to go with them, that he might bear his cross.

Simon, was an African Jew, from the distinguished city of Cyrene, a home of mathematicians and philosophers and an important centre in the Jewish Dispersion.

Simon was coming "from the country" into Jerusalem and had just arrived from out of town. He was probably a devoted Passover pilgrim with better things to do than watch an execution. There were sacrifices to buy and meals to prepare and a visit to the Temple to fit in and where on earth had the money-changers got to this year?

Jesus stumbled and fell - so the Roman soldiers decided to humiliate a pious Jew, to afflict him with a horror, to belittle and humiliate him, to make him carry a heavy wooden cross dripping with blood from the red raw back of the Savior.

"Compel one passing by" - the soldiers looked around and there Simon was - an outsider passing by. They grabbed this godly man minding his own business and put the cross upon him. The association with blood and death probably defiled Simon and made him unclean for the Passover, ruining the whole intent of his journey. Simon the pilgrim reluctantly ended up in the middle of redemption.

Simon came to be a pilgrim and ended up walking the Via Dolorosa with Jesus carrying His cross and covered with His blood.

His intention, his prayer to be a pilgrim, was granted by God in the deepest possible way, but at the beginning it probably just looked like humiliation and injustice and an unfair ruining of his plans.

At some point on that journey Simon must have realized that this was no ordinary crucifixion and that the weak stumbling man beside him was no ordinary man. At some point reluctance would have turned to joy. The spirit within him would have seen the Messiah.

Sometimes it is in the midst of interruptions and impositions and messed up plans that our deepest prayers are answered. Its when we are forced into something we hate, when we look condemned and foolish, when we are forced into identifying with the most wretched and most miserable of men - that we find we are walking right beside Jesus.

Simon's greatest moment was not when he was in the Temple singing the Psalms in splendid array, nor was it in some great thought or act of bravery. It was a reluctant moment, a time of offense, an unreligious, out in the field and on the sorry streets moment.

It was a time when Simon was unclean, defiled, humiliated, violated and ashamed - not because such things are good, but because it was a moment on a journey shared with Jesus.

The presence of Jesus can break through evil and brutality and utterly transcend them. It can enter into unreligious moments, ordinary burdensome moments, when we are fuming inside at the injustice of life. When we feel least religious, when our piety is in tatters, Jesus turns up.

It seems Simon became a Christian and that his son Alexander did also and also that his son Rufus became famous in the church in Rome. Rufus was greeted in Paul's epistle to the Romans (Romans 16:13) and was presumably known to the audience of Mark's gospel which, tradition maintains, was written by Mark in Rome. Paul seems to have regarded Rufus's mother as akin to his own mother (Romans 16:13).This implies that Simon's wife also became a believer.

In carrying the cross for Jesus salvation came to Simon and to his whole family. Since Romans was written thirty years after the cross it seems that they not only believed but stayed Christians in the long haul. They carried their cross all the way. The hour of humiliation became a doorway to the eternal knowledge of God.


John Edmiston


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