Lent: Simon of Cyrene

Simon from Cyrene happened to be coming in from a farm, and they forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. Mark 15

Stations of the cross, Maria Jeutendorf

Stations of the cross, Maria Jeutendorf, Austria. Photograph by Herzi Pinki

Pilate wanted to please the crowd.  So he set Barabbas free.  Then he ordered his soldiers to beat Jesus with a whip and nail him to a cross. The soldiers led Jesus inside the courtyard of the fortress and called together the rest of the troops.  They put a purple robe on him, and on his head they placed a crown that they had made out of thorn branches.  The made fun of Jesus and shouted, “Hey, you king of the Jews!”  Then they beat him on the head with a stick. They spat on him and knelt down and pretended to worship him. When the soldiers had finished making fun of Jesus, they took off the purple robe.  They put his own clothes back on him and led him off to be nailed to a cross.  Simon from Cyrene happened to be coming in from a farm, and they forced him to carry Jesus’ cross.   Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus. Mark 15

As Jesus was being lead away, some soldiers grabbed hold of a man from Cyrene named Simon. He was coming in from the fields, but they put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.  A large crowd followed Jesus, and in the crowd a lot of women were crying and weeping for him. Luke 23

A surprised and chief witness

Simon.  Two lines in Mark and two in Luke.  Just a couple of lines but he stands out to me quite vividly.  He had just come in from a farm.  Someone from the country, come in on his own business, maybe quite unaware of the events unfolding.  He is suddenly caught up in this most terrible of moments.  Jesus whipped, beaten, humiliated, bleeding and broken being dragged through the streets, crowds shouting, women weeping and wailing.  What a noise, what a huge scene!  Imagine being suddenly thrown into that.  Following Jesus through the streets, carrying the instrument of his coming execution; what was going on in his head?  Maybe he is the witness we have to these moments, maybe it is his testimony afterwards that describes what that was like, recounted Jesus conversation with the weeping women - after all the writer knows his name, even knows the name of his children.  One likes to think he became a believer.  He shared some of this terrible journey with Jesus, maybe that was a comfort to Jesus.

It is moments like these that so draws me to the gospel stories; vivid, personal, real people, ordinary people and extra ordinary moments. 


Whose lives do we touch?   From the margins Simon is flung into Jesus’s orbit.  Like Forrest Gump he is caught up in a major world event and we, through his eyes, become privy to it.  Unexpected and difficult encounters may change us.  Suffering that we do not want to encounter, share in, can sometimes transform us. We may not always want to be swept up in another person’s story, protect ourselves from its despair and ‘gore’.  Yet it happens, maybe despite us, and the ordinary moment is carried into an extraordinary narrative, which we recall and marvel at.

Kirsty Hook