By Anthony Casperson
During the season of Lent, we’re preparing for the celebration of Resurrection Sunday. As we’re going through this time, we’ve been looking at the cross, burial, and resurrection and what that event calls us to as followers of Jesus. Every week, we’re focusing in on a different part of the event. This week, we’ll be viewing the involvement of Simon of Cyrene.
Let me set the scene.
Jesus has been beaten, scourged, and “crowned.” Battered, bleeding, and burdened with the crossbar of his impending death, the God-man stumbles down the narrow streets. Crowds gather. Some jeering. Some weeping. All watching the death march of the Savior of the world.
Weakened by the events thus far, Jesus stumbles. The soldiers try to prod him on, but the crossbar’s too heavy for him to lift. A random man who was just passing by the parade (Mark 15: 21), not even meaning to bear witness to this horrific event, is grabbed by a soldier. Jerked from the crowd, Simon of Cyrene stumbles toward the burdened prisoner.
“Take up his cross,” a soldier barks. Simon takes up the burden of the man ground down before him. And out the city they march.
I’ve long wondered what went through Simon’s mind in that moment. He looks at the bloodied face of Jesus and asks himself, “How is it fair for me to have to take this man’s burden?” If only Simon had known that the burden he was carrying was nothing compared to the burden Jesus would bear nailed to that piece of wood. Simon bore the burden of the one who would bear Simon’s own burden of sin.
The cross calls us to help bear each other’s burdens.
When I was much younger, during the time when the Nintendo 64 was still relatively new, my sister and I would play video games together. And I don’t just mean we would play against each other. No, quite often, I would sit there watching her play Super Mario 64. Questing for stars, Mario would run, jump, and swim.
But then, my sister would not be able to complete some part of a puzzle. Or a jump would be too difficult or frustrating to her. She’d hand the controller over to me and ask me to do it. I would try and usually succeed where she had failed. I’d continue to play the same game save as her. But then, it would be my turn to be frustrated or unable to complete a puzzle and I’d hand the controller to her. And she’d do that part with ease.
If one of us were unable to do something in the game, the other would likely be able to perform that part. (Although that stupid bunny on the basement took forever for both of us until I finally lucked into it.) It was nice to have a person beside me able to complete tasks that I was unable to. It eased tension. It made the game a little bit less stressful.
This is what the cross calls us to. No one can do the life of a follower of Jesus alone. Every one of us will have weaknesses that are other’s strengths. I mean think about it, even Jesus needed help to get the cross to the place where he’d pay for the sins of the world.
And that bearing of burdens was mutual. A man named Rufus is called out in Romans 16:18, who was probably the same Rufus whose father was Simon of Cyrene. It’s absolutely likely that the man who bore Jesus’ burden of the cross, had his burden of sin paid for on the cross by Jesus.
Many other places in the New Testament, we are told to bear each other’s burdens. We followers of Jesus must aid each other in this race of life. It’s cooperative, not competitive. And it makes serving God and others so much easier when we have a person right beside us to pass the controller off to. Rather than being frustrated, or feeling like a failure because we can’t do something, we are freed to let one more gifted in this particular circumstance help us.
Let’s say that an introverted person, who’s really gifted at serving others, knows where to go to live out the gospel. But they’re too shy to really start talking about the gospel to those they are serving. Sure, the people are being helped, but is it as well as it could be? But maybe there’s a super people person who’s moving so much that they miss this serving opportunity. If the two serve side by side, the people who need help will not be overlooked AND they can hear of the truth of the cross.
This is what the cross calls us to. If we try to do it all alone, it will not be done as well as it could have been. Without Simon bearing the cross of Jesus, what would have happened? Who knows? And without Jesus bearing the guilt of sin on the cross where would Simon have been? That one’s easier to answer: right where the rest of us would be, hopeless.
So, what things are you not able to do in your walk with Jesus? Is there some aspect of your serving God that could be done better by another (like administrative stuff is for me)? Then see who can come to aid you. Do you struggle with a repetitive sin? Find an accountability partner who’ll be persistent. Whatever else, seek others to aid in your weaknesses.
But this is only fair if we are also open to helping others with our strengths. What are you good at? Is there someone around who might be aided by you? Go, ask them if they could use some help. Probably, they’ll be thrilled and were just too afraid to ask.
That’s the beauty of the gospel, no one can do it by themselves. Bear each other’s burdens as your burdens are born by another. Be cross-bearers.