As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus.
On the whole, you’d have to say that Simon of Cyrene is a bit player in the larger narrative we call the Passion of our Lord. Who knows what brought him to this place? Perhaps he was a pilgrim come to Jerusalem for Passover. Perhaps he had heard about Jesus and was curious to see what was happening to him. Perhaps he had never heard of this man and just got caught up in the human traffic jam created by the spectacle of his arrest and sentence. We don’t know.
What we do know is that some of the Roman centurions leading Jesus to his death grabbed Simon as he was coming into the city from the country, forced upon him Jesus’ cross, and instantly made him a part of this ghastly parade to Golgotha.
It’s a small part, but critical, as Jesus has been up all night, marched to and from different magistrates, mocked and abused, and whipped to the point that it would be nearly impossible to place a cross on his flayed back.
It’s a small part, but critical. Mark’s Gospel, the first written of the four, identifies Simon as the father of Alexander and Rufus, two people who were apparently known to, and perhaps even a part of, the Christian community for whom Mark writes. So it may be that after this ordeal Simon is no longer a bystander, or even a bit player, but became a follower, a disciple, a Christian.
Sometimes small parts are like that. They lead to something much larger. Which makes me wonder about all the bit parts I play and I suspect you do as well. How often are we pressed into service to offer a small gesture of help, comfort or relief. Except that, when done in faith, there are no small gestures. And when acting in love, there are no bit parts. Each of us, you see, from Simon down to us, has a part to play in the ongoing story of the Passion of our God to save, heal, and bless this whole world.
What part will you play? What part are you playing?
Prayer: Dear God, thank you for Simon, for the strength of his body and willingness of his spirit to play the part assigned him. Encourage us to do the same. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Post image: Gwyneth Leech, “Simon of Cyrene Helps Carry the Cross,” 2005.