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Simon’s Unexpected Cross

Key References: Luke 23:26; The Desire of Ages, chap. 78, pp. 741, 742; The Bible Story (1994), vol. 9, pp. 101- 104; Our Beliefs nos. 14, 11, 17

Power Text

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

Power Point

We show our love for Jesus when we support others in our community.

Have you ever been persuaded to do something that you think will be awful and then afterward you were really glad that you did it? That was just the situation Simon found himself in.

With a look of surprise and shock, Barabbas makes his way through the crowds. He has been released. But how could the crowd choose him over Jesus? One look at Jesus’ face tells anyone that He is innocent.

Jesus is exhausted. It has been more than 12 hours since He ate the Passover supper with His disciples. From His arrest in Gethsemane to this, His last trial, no one has given Him anything to drink. Twice He has been beaten with a leather whip, the pieces of bone and metal tearing into His flesh. Each time enough lashes struck Jesus’ body to injure Him but not kill Him. He would live long enough to be nailed to a cross.

“Crucify Him,” the crowd roars. The words hit Pilate’s ear. “Crucify Him.”

Pilate calls for a bowl and a pitcher of water. With the mob watching, Pilate washes his hands. “I am innocent of this man’s blood” (Matthew 27:24).

Then, turning to the Jewish leaders, Pilate says, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him” (John 19:6).

The Roman centurion takes charge. Soldiers bring three crossbeams forward and place them on the shoulders of the three convicted criminals. Jesus falls. He cannot hold the weight of the beam.

Soldiers lift the cross from the pavement. Jesus staggers to His feet and continues His walk to Golgotha. A second time Jesus falls to the pavement. It’s obvious that He can’t carry the cross any farther. Frustrated, a Roman soldier looks at the crowd of people following.

“Who will carry the cross for this man?” No one answers. The Jews think of crucifixion as the greatest curse a person can experience. They have heard Deuteronomy 21:23 quoted by their leaders: “Anyone who is hung on a pole is under God’s curse.”

Besides, it’s Passover. Anyone who touches the cross or one of these criminals will be unclean and unable to take part in the Passover service at the Temple.

Suddenly the soldier sees a man. Simon, from the area of Cyrene, is standing by, looking at the spectacle. Coming to Jerusalem for the Passover, Simon expected to see large crowds. He didn’t expect to witness a crucifixion.

He sees Jesus and remembers hearing about Him. His two sons, Alexander and Rufus, are believers. Simon has listened to them talk of this young Galilean. He knows they believe Him to be the Messiah. Simon’s face shows his shock at seeing Jesus’ condition. He can’t hide his compassion for this suffering man.

The soldier’s strong hands grab Simon. “Here,” he says, shoving Simon forward. “Carry the beam.” The soldiers lift the beam onto Simon’s shoulders. He begins walking. Jesus staggers to His feet and follows.

Simon unloads his burden at Golgotha and moves back into the crowd. He stays to watch. He sees Jesus pulled onto the rough boards.

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” Jesus cries (Luke 23:34).

Is this man the Son of God? Simon wonders. He stays until the last cry of Jesus splits the air: “It is finished” (John 19:30).

With the others on the hillside, Simon falls to the ground when the earthquake rumbles across the surface like a water wave. Then Nicodemus and Joseph come to remove Jesus’ body from the cross.

Simon is ceremonially unclean now. He can’t take part in Passover at the Temple. Carrying Jesus’ cross will keep him from taking part in any religious services. He can’t go back home. It is near sundown, and home is much farther than a Sabbath day’s journey. So Simon finds lodging in Jerusalem for the night. He listens as people talk about the events of this day.

It seems that everyone is talking about Jesus. Simon wonders how his sons will react to this sad news.

Little did Simon know that after Jesus’ resurrection, when he would study the Scriptures concerning the Messiah, he would become a believer like his sons. Then Simon would never get tired of telling his story to others. The memory of that Friday morning filled him with gratitude to God for being the one chosen to carry Jesus’ cross.