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.
We like to think that we can control everything. If we get enough information, we can predict the future. If we get enough people thinking and working on a problem, we can solve anything. If we’re determined enough, we can conquer any mountain.
We even sing about it.
Climb every mountain
Ford every stream
Follow every rainbow
'Till you find your dream
The Sound of Music
Try as we might, we can’t control everything. Predict everything. And this one sentence shows us our inabilities in contrast to God. His power. His control. His working all things together.
Here’s a stranger, an out-of-towner. Simon. A visitor, a stranger from the northern coast of Africa. He might have come to Jerusalem for many reasons: business, pleasure, pilgrimage for The Passover. Or he might have moved, relocating his family.
No matter the reason, he was a long way from home. He was a relative stranger to Jerusalem. It wasn’t where he was raised. Not near family and friends. Not even close to the familiar things he grew up with.
But one thing that we can know for certain, he wasn’t in Jerusalem to see Jesus. He didn’t walk into the city at that time just to become involved with Jesus.; Or his death by execution. He was just heading into town from the countryside.
Simon hadn’t even stopped walking. He was just passing by. He was in the middle of doing something else. He was doing what he was supposed to be doing. He was going about his normal life. Just passing by. On his way from someplace to someplace.
And into this mix of doing his daily life, God steps in. God moves him from the daily and normal, into the unfamiliar and unplanned. While Simon was just walking along, he was “picked at random” by the soldiers to carry Jesus cross for him.
Simon wasn’t picked because of his resume, or because he looked the part. He hadn’t auditioned or won a contest. Simon was picked because he was passing by.
Into this “passing by,” God used soldiers who certainly didn’t recognize or think a whole lot about Simon. The soldiers didn’t wake up that morning, receiving a revelation that they were going to pick this guy out of a crowd and change a stranger’s life.
They probably woke up with orders to take a suspected rabble-rouser out for execution. They got dressed, picked up their swords, hammers, and spikes before reporting for duty. When Jesus was handed over to them, they saw that he wasn’t going to make it to his own execution. Thinking quickly, they grabbed the first guy they saw and made him carry the hated and feared means of torture and execution.
That’s how it is sometime. Actually, that’s how it is most of the time. We’re in the middle of our daily life, going from one place to another. Just minding our own business, doing normal, everyday tasks. And while we’re just “passing by,” we get pulled into an unexpected situation in order to help someone we don’t even know.
Has it ever happened to you? It wasn’t planned, it wasn’t on our agenda or itinerary. There was no advanced warning. It wasn’t on our radar. And it’s not even with anyone we’re familiar with. It’s a complete stranger. As a matter of fact, it’s someone that’s not attractive or popular.
While everyone else is ignoring them, or against them, we’re brought into the middle of a situation that we had nothing to do with. And then we have a decision to make: are we going to stop and help, or are we going to just walk on by?
Simon couldn’t solve all of Jesus’ problems. He wasn’t asked to give him a drink of water. To bandage up his wounds. Or even speak words of comfort. The only thing that was asked of Simon was to carry a burden for Jesus. To carry his cross.
And there was no pay for it. No up-side. He didn’t earn a coupon or frequent flyer points. There were no “likes” on social media. No publicity of any kind. The only thing he got for his troubles was probably to get sweaty and dirty for his troubles.
But because of this one “chance” encounter. This one, forced, act of kindness, put Simon into the history book for all time. To be always be remember as the guy who helped Jesus in his most desperate time.
Wouldn’t you like that to be your legacy?