The Eighth Station: Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus to Carry His Cross

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
Default article daily reflection

As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus.

Luke 23:26

What a shock this must have been for Simon! After traveling almost a thousand miles from Cyrene in northern Africa to Jerusalem (Cyrene is in northern Africa, where Libya is today), he found the city jammed with pilgrims who, like Simon himself, had come to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem. So Simon set up camp out in the countryside. On his way into the city, he stumbled into what might have looked from a distance like a parade. But then, as he drew near, Simon saw the horrific spectacle of a badly beaten man stumbling as he was forced to carry the beam of his cross on the way to being crucified. We don't know whether Simon had any knowledge of Jesus prior to their encounter on the road to Golgotha. It's likely that he knew nothing about the suffering man before that moment.

As Simon watched in horror, all of a sudden he found himself pressed into action. The Roman soldiers, recognizing that Jesus didn't have sufficient strength to carry his cross by himself, "seized" Simon and demanded that he carry the cross instead. No doubt Simon was hesitant, fearing that he might end up sharing Jesus' fate. Yet he knew enough not to provoke the soldiers, so he took the cross as ordered. We don't know much more about Simon than this, since he disappears from the biblical record at this point.

Although Simon only helped to carry the cross of Jesus and was not actually crucified, he nevertheless illustrates the theological truth found in the letters of Paul in the New Testament. In the letter to the Galatians, we read: "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:19-20).

When we put our faith in Christ, we shared in his death, not by literally dying, but by dying to sin. Our old self is crucified so that we might be set free from our bondage to sin. Thus, we are alive in Christ, who lives in us.

Therefore, in a sense, we ought to identify with Simon of Cyrene, who found himself a surprised participant in the crucifixion of Christ. This is especially true since many of us became Christians without really knowing that we were dying to our old selves so that we might live anew in Christ. We were pitched a gospel of salvation and eternal life without the corollary call to servanthood, sacrifice, and death to sin and self. Thus, it was only later in our Christian pilgrimage when we discovered, like Simon, that we were expected to be "crucified with Christ."

Unlike Simon, however, we aren't forced to pick up the cross of Christ. Jesus invites us to follow him. Even though he is our Lord, he doesn't force us against our will to join him. Rather, he beckons to us, calling us to take up our cross and offering abundant life in return. As he once said to those who were interested in following him: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it" (Luke 9:23-24).

If we take up the cross of Christ, we will lose our lives, only to discover that we have found true life in Him.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: In what ways have you taken up the cross of Christ? How do you respond to his invitation to take up your cross in your daily life and work?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, the powerful example of Simon reminds me that I am also to take up my cross and follow you. You have called me to die to myself so that I might live for you. I confess that sometimes I resist this call, even though I know that in dying to myself I find true life in you. So help me, Lord, to carry my cross, to give my life away so that I might receive the abundant life of your kingdom.

I could not do this were it not for the fundamental fact that you took my place on the cross. Through you, I am forgiven and invited into the fullness of life. In your death, I am raised to new life. All thanks and praise be to you, Lord Jesus, for bearing my sin on the cross, so that I might bear the cross into eternal life, both now and forever. Amen.

P.S. You can see Linda's painting of the Eighth Station here.