Did anyone encounter Jesus like Simon from a seaside town in modern day Libya, Northern Africa: Cyrene? You have to wonder.
What a place he found himself in, and so unplanned and unexpected.
Did anyone ever or since experience the suffering of Jesus as close and as personally than this stranger from the country?
• He felt the suffering of the man.
• He smelt it.
• He saw it up close.
• He was drawn into it – immersed in it for those moments he helped the condemned man up the hill with that awful cross crushing his spirit.
At the time of course, Simon was like everyone else – just guessing as to what this man Jesus was really doing.
The Nazarene’s way of bringing his influence to bear on the world must have seemed so depleted, so beaten, so irrelevant, so minimal to even his closest associates, like his Mother and close friends, John, let alone to this stranger visiting the city from a long way away.
Simon said it was hard to see the man through the blood. This was violence. This was human suffering. This was the pit. This was defeat and darkness and evil triumphing… it seemed.
Simon said the blood on the cross from his body would stain his clothes and actually stain him. Any association with Jesus’ blood would render Simon defiled – outside the worship of God at the feast of the Passover.
….Too late. He was stained. The soldiers gave him no choice…
But then in the up close and personal exchange of helpless one and helper, the African knew this man was moving, working, suffering, being abused, bleeding, being mocked for something….for someone… he had to be….
Oh friends, O that we could receive that look and that personal connection with this man of sorrows today. If we did, we would truly see him and see his intent…only love….
Friend, on this very Good Friday morning, receive this man by the ear, by this account, by his words….
Hear him in this story we re-live today. It is his story. It is him speaking…
We have his voice. He is here. This story is no mere story. That is our deep conviction in this community. This story is us. It is him resurrected within us and us simply responding to this day.
We know him and what he did.
Simon was helping this man of love carry a cross. But did it really dawn on Simon of Cyrene that this cross of pain Jesus carried was not Jesus cross….but his?
Maybe. We don’t know about Simon, but we know about ourselves.
Is that cross yours this morning? Is its weight your wrongs, your brokenness, your idol making and chasing, your rejection of the hand that gives you life, your determination to do it all your way? Simon may have thought so. Millions since have known so.
Many here now know he carries all of it for them and that is why we are here – to honour this Saviour. To give thanks. The marvel at God’s gracious love in action in human terms we can grasp….
Simon helped the suffering servant carry our wrong, our ignorance, our hard-heartedness, our human arrogance and pride, our self-interest and self-promotion and the abuse and violence it creates. They were dislodged this day. Love, hope, peace, joy, were established as rulers of the world through this man, this divine suffering man.
How must this African’s life been radically altered by this involuntary act of the Jewish man. Seems that one of his sons, Rufus, ended up a Christian in the community in Rome (Romans 16:13) and some of his fellow Northern Africans were there on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:10)
How must our life be radically altered by that act of God’s resurrection power and love done in a church community somewhere by water and word?
Simon was claimed as assistant to the Messiah this day. So have we been claimed, assistant to the Messiah.
He is the Messiah – the one and only. He is truth, life, resurrection, life, shepherd of his people.
And yet the King of kings calls us to his suffering and his blood and his loss and shame.
• He calls us into these to be with him in all of it.
• He even calls us to assist him in all of this. He calls us to join him in bearing other people’s suffering with him.
Friend, today enter the cross.
Enter the suffering of your Saviour.
Leave yourself here and put on this man suffering man and be radically altered in the way you bear the cross with and for others.
All of us are being called as assistants to the Saviour in this ongoing work of bearing people’s suffering and human pride and going with him to Golgotha regularly where God nails it and deals with it all, once and for all.
Celebrate the new Passover today. He is the true Passover Lamb who has taken away all sin and its death in the world and still does through us his assisting community.
There is somewhere to go with suffering now.
Suffering is not meaningless or to be avoided at all costs. It just is and he is in it and with us in it and for us through it.
His blood stains us for good. His blood is grace, life, love, hope and future.
Let him stain you today. Let him stain you with grace. Respond to his call to do a Simon, and assist him on the way of suffering we share to the way of life and hope and love with him we share because of this Good day.