Suddenly my eyes were opened, this week, to the amazing nature of the passages in Mark’s gospel recording Christ’s final journey to the Cross.
While others would follow, Mark is the first to write about these events. Because of this, he really should be celebrated.
Mark was just a young man following the twelve disciples and he hints that he witnessed Jesus’ arrest first hand like this:
A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him [Jesus], he fled naked, leaving his garment behind. ~ Mark 14:51-52
I love clues like these as they can begin to open my eyes to imagining what it must have been like to be on the scene that night and to have first hand knowledge of the trial and crucifixion of Jesus.
Another clue that grabbed my attention was this remark about Simon of Cyrene:
A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. ~ Mark 15:21
Much has been made of this moment and I hope you will pause to meditate on the slide show above. The Via Dolorosa (The Sorrowful Way) is the path that Jesus walked on his way to the cross that day. This road has been marked as a important pilgrim destination since the middle ages. Knowing this, I think on how it must be incredibly moving to stand on the spot, guarded by a little Franciscan chapel, where Simon of Cyrene was pressed into service and carried Jesus’ cross the rest of the way to Golgotha. I wonder if he felt guilty for helping the Roman’s to execute this righteous Man. How did providing Jesus this service change him?
I must admit, I hadn’t really taken the time to pause on the magnitude of this moment. I had just always known it as a part of the story.
But I urge you to zoom in and notice this detail: Why did Mark take the time to mention Alexander and Rufus?
The answer might be that Mark’s original audience would have known these men as part of the Christian community.
Wow! this sent my head spinning as I thought about how Simon of Cyrene carried the cross and walked side by side with Jesus up the hill. And when Jesus was lifted up…Simon must have been left at the foot of the Cross. It is as if God was saying: “see the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world.”
Simon was someone standing on the sidelines, forced into service and yet no one else would experience the Cross or become a closer witness to Jesus’ suffering that day.
Armed with this thought, I then read the passages to follow in a new light. I thought about how Simon must have told his son’s about the many things he witnessed at the foot of the cross, and maybe Simon or these sons, Alexander and Rufus, might have told Mark the story that eventually was written down as the first gospel account of the moment Jesus “breathed his last.”
When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.” One man ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.
With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.
The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said,
“Surely this man was the Son of God!” ~ Mark 15: 35-39
What an amazing service, Simon of Cyrene provided that day. This thought, inspires me and brings new meaning to these words of Jesus recorded by Mark:
…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. ~ Mark 10:43-45
…If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me! For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. ~ Mark 8: 34-35
Dear Heavenly Father,
Fill us with wonder as we journey through each day. Help us to see that you have provided us with all our needs. Open our hearts and give us a fresh outpouring of your Spirit. Thank you for the sweet fellowship of friends; the gift of work for our hands and the beauty of nature that surrounds us in this Garden of Eden we call home. Most of all, thank you for your son who suffered and died for our sins, so that we might live closer to your heart. In Christ alone we find our freedom…amen.
God’s peace be with you:)