Station of the Cross 5 – Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry the Cross

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Image source: photographed at the San Gabriel Mission Museum.

Luke 23:26
When they led Him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, coming in from the country, and placed on him the cross to carry behind Jesus. (NASB)

Jesus having been flogged is in a weakened physical state. We can only imagine how much the spiritual battle is taking its toll on him in addition to the pain from wounds. He is struggling to carry the Cross to Golgotha. The Roman soldier in charge of the procession sees this and looks at the crowd and presses into service Simon of Cyrene.

Simon is a common name. After all, there is Simon Peter and Simon the Zealot among the disciples. Among other Simon’s: one of Jesus brothers is Simon (Matt. 13:55), Simon a tax-collector (Matt. 17:25), Simon the leper (Matt. 26:6) and Simon a Pharisee (Luke 7:40).

Cyrene was located in Libya. There were a Jewish community there. Thus, Simon of Cyrene may have been Jewish and had arrived in Jerusalem for some reason perhaps for a Passover pilgrimage. Whether he was originally from Cyrene and a convert to Judaism or he moved there from elsewhere we don’t know.

But why was he picked out by the Roman soldiers?

Probably he looked like a person of sufficient strength to help Jesus carry the Cross. In the art work above, the artist portrays him as a physically imposing individual.

What did he experience carrying the Cross? Was he aware of the stories of Jesus prior to this spectacle of his impending Crucifixion? Might he have been a follower of Jesus already at this point?

We do not know. However, we know there was Rufus and Alexander sons of Simon of Cyrene Mark 15:21 whom the initial readers (likely in Rome) of the Gospel of Mark would know and Paul extends greetings to Rufus and his mother in his letter to the Romans Romans 16:13. Thus, it would seem that the experience of meeting Jesus and carrying the Cross set in motion something that dramatically impacted Simon and his family!

Have you considered this Jesus?

At this moment, there were onlookers. The responses could range from indifference – Romans killing another Jew – to dispair – when is this kind of thing going to stop?

But the key is to see more than just the Cross. Do we see and seek the Jesus who carried it, to look into the life, teaching and deeds of Jesus before the Cross and to marvel at the Resurrection after the Cross?

This Jesus, who with a word, a mere thought, could have shattered everyone involved into pieces but did not. Instead, he endured the Cross. He allowed Simon of Cyrene to enter into his suffering changing Simon’s life.

Have you considered this Jesus?

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus
look full in His wonderful face
and the things of earth will grow strangely dim
in the light of His glory and grace”
— Helen H. Lemmel

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