“They pressed into service a passer-by, Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.”
Simon. Most likely he was a pilgrim there in Jerusalem for the Passover. He came from Cyrenaica, a Roman province on the north coast of Africa, with Cyrene its capital city. Every pious Jew of Jesus’ time longed for Jerusalem, and hoped to one day celebrate the Passover there, and visit the Temple. We read today in Deuteronomy:
“Be careful not to sacrifice your burnt offerings in any place you like, but offer them in the place which the Lord chooses in one of your tribal territories; there you shall do what I command you.” (12:13-14)
But realistically, not all Jews could make the arduous journey to the designated place of worship, which at the time of Jesus was Jerusalem, and the law permitted them to celebrate locally:
“…and if the place where the Lord, your God, chooses to put his name is too far, you may slaughter in the manner I have commanded you any of your herd or flock that the Lord has given you, and eat it freely in your own community.” (Deut. 12:21).
Simon had probably saved for many years to make this once-in-a-lifetime journey to the Temple. Like Jesus, he had celebrated the Passover the night before, with the prayers and remembrances of the slavery in Egypt, and God’s mighty power to deliver his people.
Under Roman law, the Jews were waiting for their deliverer, many believing he would come as a military hero, bringing their oppression by the Romans to an end. Here, Simon received a pilgrimage he would not have chosen; to be ‘pressed into service’ to carry a stranger’s cross. What happened to Simon on the way to Golgotha was God’s grace. We know from the Scriptures that his sons Alexander and Rufus are Christians, perhaps born into the family through their father’s experience.
In our lives too unfortunate experiences enter in; ones we would rather avoid. Just as Simon found himself in a situation that he resented, it was the instrument God used to bring the greatest grace. Not only for Simon, but for all of us. To let our resentment turn to love.
May God Bless you.