As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. Luke 22:25
You are standing in the crowd, watching. Suddenly, someone grabs the sleeve of your robe and pulls you out of the crowd. You stumble into the street and fall to your knees. You look up and are face to face with a bloody man. On his back is a cross. The soldiers are yelling at you, but you can’t understand what they are saying. Finally one pulls you up and motions to the bloody man. You realize the solider is telling you to pick up the cross. Pick up the cross? What other choice do you have? As you grasp it, splinters catch in your skin. Somehow you heave it on your back. Your knees creak and you wonder how you will ever make it to the hill. The soldiers kick the bloody man into motion. As he stumbles forward a step, he glances at you. That glance is unforgettable.
Simon is forced to carry the burden of the cross for Jesus for a time. He is unwitting, perhaps unwilling. He follows after Jesus, knowing the fate that lies ahead. Simon will be able to put down the cross, but the bloody man will become part of the cross. Did Simon stay and watch after he put down the cross? If he did, was he changed by the experience?
Ironically, we who are already supposed to be “different,” changed by our knowledge of Jesus’ sacrifice at Calvary, are all too often like Simon. We are unwitting, maybe even unwilling. We trudge through busy lives, often too busy to remember. To set aside time and space to reflect and then act as a child of God should.
Perhaps Lent is a season of opportunity. A season in which we could, like Simon, be “pulled” from the crowd and reminded of the sacrifice of the cross. In many places and in many ways during Lent, we are challenged to remember. We wear ashes, we sing, we give something up, we read of the journey Jesus takes towards the hill. For a brief time, Simon shared the burden of the cross with Jesus. Perhaps Lent is the season for us to share the burden too. And in sharing the burden, to realize (maybe as Simon did) that Jesus was (and is) carrying the real burden for us the entire time. “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” Have mercy on us!