I was heading east on 287 from Midlothian when the traffic slowed. The lights were flashing, and as we inched along, I saw a police officer I knew and the Justice of the Peace, a personal friend. I pulled over when my friend recognized my car and motioned to me. “Dave, there’s been a fatality, and I need to inform the family standing over there in the shade. Want to help?” It’s tough to get conscripted into a situation involving death and the horror of grief.
Simon, an African from Cyrene, was simply carrying out his business. He had been out in the fields and was walking back into the city when he came upon a procession that would end at the Place of the Skull.
“A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and the soldiers conscripted him to carry Jesus’ cross. They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means ‘The Place of the Skull’). There they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he didn’t take any. While they were crucifying him, they were dividing up his clothes casting lots to see who would get what.
Now when they crucified him, it was the third hour (nine in the morning), and the written notice of the charge against him was ‘The King of the Jews.’ There were two insurrectionists being crucified with him, one on his right and another on his left. Now those passing by were shaking their heads and reviling him, ‘So! The one who said he would tear down the Temple and build it in three days! Save yourself! Come down off the cross!’
The chief priests joined in the abuse with the religious legal experts saying to one another, ‘He saved others! But he can’t save himself! Let this Messiah, this King of Israel come down now from the cross that we might see and believe!’ And those being crucified with him joined in mocking him.” Mark 15:21-32
This crucifixion account had to be written within a generation of the events as Mark can simply assume that his readers will know the names of the sons of the man who carried the cross beam of Jesus’ cross. Note that Jesus won’t take any painkillers to dull his senses. He’s wide-awake as the religious leaders and the insurrectionists on either side taunt him. Ironically, their mocking jibes were true. He is the King of the Jews, but not the militant, nationalistic zealot they wanted. He did save others, and because he will not save himself, he will become the Savior of all who will receive his gift of love and forgiveness. He will allow the temple of his body to be torn down in death, but on the third day he will rebuilt it with eternal, resurrection life and power.
LORD, help me join Simon in being willing to carry the cross. That means a willingness to suffer for your sake and not retaliating when the taunts come with hatred, and the sword thrusts of the tongue. I pray that you will help a friend reading this today to see Jesus dying in their place and believe.
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