October 26

Text: Matthew 27:32

And as they were coming out, they found a man of Cyrene named Simon, whom they pressed into service to bear His cross.  (NASB)

There was no honor in what was happening.  If those people could see the ways we use a cross today, they would think we were crazy!  Using a cross as a piece of jewelry?  No way!  That would be like being proud of a gallows!  All a cross said was a disgraceful execution!

Few things show the disgrace and humiliation involved in a crucifixion event as did the incident involving Simon.  This incident is all we know about Simon.  For all we know he could have been passing by and merely happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.  Or, he may have been a part of the jeering crowd.  We know two things about him.  (1) He was from a North African country (mentioned in Acts 2:10, 6:9, 11:20; 13:1), and (2) he did not volunteer to be associated with a cross.

It is speculated that the ordeal of scourging and the anticipation of the pain of crucifixion had taken a physical toll on Jesus.  While the aspect of physical pain is not to be denied or minimized, there is a mental aspect that likely receives too little recognition.  The pressure to “die honorably” was enormous!  

Jesus did not want the way he handled death to distract from God’s purposes in his death.  (1) Few realize the mental stress created by rejection.  To be abandoned by your closest friends—who are struggling to grasp what is happening—produces a unique form of loneliness.  Jesus literally had nowhere to turn as he did God’s will.  (2) There was the weight of knowing that all God had promised since Abraham was culminating in these moments.  His attitude powerfully would reflect on God’s intent!  If he died poorly, he not only discredited himself, but he also discredited God.  (3) There also was the anguish of knowing that both family and close friends had to witness and interpret his public humiliation!  To say Jesus had a lot on his mind as he endured physical pain is an understatement!

In the middle of this struggle, a stranger who did not want to be involved in Jesus’ death had to be forced to carry the cross.  There was no compassion, only selfish thoughts of, “What a mess!  How can I escape this situation unharmed?”

Suggestion for reflection: How much of your willingness to follow Jesus involves selfish considerations?  (Read Mark 8:34-38.)

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