Easter Devotional | 2024 - Day 3

Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry the Cross

By Jeff Adams

“They pressed into service a passer-by coming from the country, Simon of Cyrene (the father of Alexander and Rufus), to bear His cross.” ~ Mark 15:21

Imagine: a weary traveler watching over his young family. Exhausted from travel. Founded by the Greeks, Cyrene included a community of displaced Jews located on the North African coast in what we now know as Libya. By land, the journey would have taken approximately one month. The trip could be shortened if a boat was involved, but only by around half. Either way, Simon of Cyrene was doing what every Jew was doing that Friday morning in Jerusalem—prepping for the Passover celebration scheduled to start at sundown. Simon had but a few hours to finish his work before he would be expected to fulfill the duties of a faithful father and leader of his family in a Passover celebration. Even Jews displaced hundreds of years earlier yearned to celebrate festivals in Jerusalem. Simon had finally arrived with his family—including young sons Alexander and Rufus. They were finally “home.”

Out of nowhere, a Roman guard grabbed Simon by the arm. Simon was now marked “unclean” because of the blood of some criminal on his sleeve. Did they know who was passing by in the crush of humanity? Had they heard the groans of the One who had been beaten beyond recognition? Had Simon heard the stories of The Christ who had been celebrated just a few days earlier with the waving of palm branches? His sons, fearful of the Roman soldiers, cried out for their dad. Simon declared his own innocence, trying to shake loose from the guard, but he was ultimately forced to pick up the splintered beam. Within seconds, Simon’s plan for Passover had turned into something unimaginable, something horrifying. Simon was now eye-to-eye with the One who would change his life forever—one arm supporting the cross and the other helping a bloodied Man put one foot in front of the other. 

We do not know exactly how this scene played out in history. It all happened so fast. Scripture does not provide a great deal of information other than the fact that Simon of Cyrene was forced by Roman soldiers to assist Jesus on the remainder of His journey to Calvary. Whether or not in that moment Simon recognized Jesus as Christ, surely compassion was stirred in his heart for the One sentenced to die on the cross. Tradition holds that Simon came to recognize Jesus as Christ and would become a messenger of the gospel, eventually dying as a martyr decades later in Egypt. That experience would have changed the hardest of hearts. Can you imagine the look on his wife’s face when he finally returned home, robes soaked in blood, yes, but with the blood of Jesus Christ? Passover would never again be celebrated the same in their home.

From time to time, we are asked to do tasks or assist others in ways we may find distasteful. Whether resisting a physical request or a nudge from the Holy Spirit, we love to dictate our own direction. We are reared to be strong, independent individuals. No one can tell us what to do! But what does Jesus say about random requests? He urges us to serve others. Sometimes, people need us to walk the extra mile with them. Sometimes, they need our cloak too. Sometimes, they need someone to bear the entire burden on their behalf. Are you ready? Are you willing? 

Our culture dictates that we are to do nothing that in any way inconveniences us. That those who serve others are just doormats seeking the approval of others. Culture has fallen prey to the lies of the enemy, centering our daily lives on personal preferences and pride. In many ways, our flesh desires to be served rather than to serve, and to some people, serving others is counterintuitive. At the other end of the spectrum is Jesus. Jesus says, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and foremost commandment. The second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37–39) How can we live out our love for God while also loving our neighbor as ourselves? We serve them. 

Even if Simon of Cyrene initially hesitated to follow the guard’s command, his hesitation was likely from fear and disgust. But once he was physically covered in the blood of Christ, the power of the moment must have pierced his own heart. Simon surely recognized that the Messiah he’d prayed for in synagogue was manifest in the person of Christ. Jesus himself had said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). At this moment, Simon was literally carrying the cross of Christ. Discipleship is costly. Following after Christ often requires change on our behalf. I can only imagine the impact that those moments together on the Via Dolorosa had on Simon. Aside from the words of Christ recorded from the cross, Simon was the last person to interact with Jesus one-on-one. Were any words spoken? When Simon looked into the eyes of Christ, what did he see?

Simon of Cyrene is a prime example of a servant. Whether or not he knew who Jesus was in that moment, he certainly went to bed that night knowing he had experienced God in the flesh. Simon is a lesser-known player in the scenes that echo throughout eternity. As we read through Scripture and contemplate our own role in serving others, my prayer is that we are always ready and willing to assist others where we can. Maybe we physically carry the load, or maybe we connect them with someone who can. Either way, my prayer is that in those moments, God provides us with the strength and wisdom to bring Him the most honor and glory. 

Questions for Thought

  1. Have you had a life-changing encounter with the Living God through the completed work of Christ? Have you allowed your encounter with Jesus to change you?
  2. Which burdens are you carrying that need to be left at the foot of the cross? Aside from a chronic physical ailment, situational burdens are not meant to be permanent parts of our lives. Have you laid something down and picked it back up? Whether new or old, you can place your burdens at the feet of Jesus.

Daily Challenge

As we approach our Resurrection Sunday celebration and commemorate the completed work of Christ, I want to challenge you to capture service opportunities potentially overlooked—especially opportunities that point others to the risen Lord. Be ready, willing, and able to step into places of service. Those experiences could change someone else’s life. God may even be orchestrating that experience to change YOUR life! 

Author Bio

Jeff Adams

Minister to Adult 3, Minister to Men

Jeff serves as the Minister to Median Adults and Minister to Men. He loves the Sunday School environment at First Baptist Dallas because it is through Sunday School that a big church becomes small and people find community. Jeff and his wife, Sheri, have adult children, and in their spare time, they enjoy walking their dogs and cooking dinner for friends in our home.

Author in Israel