For a long time, I have been fascinated with the story of Simon the Cyrenian, the man whom the Roman soldiers forced to help Jesus carry His cross up the hill of Golgotha. Now, just about every Christian will tell you that Simon was compelled to carry the cross of Jesus after the Lord collapsed of physical exhaustion after hours of torture and beatings. In fact, if you visit the city of Jerusalem, they have marked the “Via Dolorosa,” the path that many believed Jesus followed as He carried the cross. Three of those stations are allegedly places where Jesus fell, and one is Station 5, where the Romans forced Simon to help Jesus carry His cross.
The problem with the traditional “Via Dolorosa” is that the path leads through the city, and the Bible states that the soldiers led Jesus out of the city to a place that is called “Golgotha,” or “The place of the skull.” And contrary to what I grew up believing, Jesus never stumbled as He carried the cross.
Matthew 27:31-32 says “And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him. And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross.”
After the Roman soldiers beat and scourged Jesus, they led Him out of the Antonia Fortress, and immediately compelled Simon to help Jesus carry His cross. So, the tradition that Jesus fell, and as a result, Simon was drafted into service has no root in scripture. None of the four Gospels describe a fall of Jesus prior to Simon’s involvement. Furthermore, none of the four Gospels record a single fall of Jesus. Which means that the idea that Jesus stumbled and fell as He carried the cross to Golgotha is completely based on tradition, and not scripture.
So, why is this important? Simple.
Tradition paints a picture of a Jesus whose humanity had overcome Him, thus He was too weak to carry His cross up the hill for the crucifixion. Scripture shows us the real Jesus, Who, despite the beatings and scourging, was determined to get up that hill and be crucified. Why? Because getting up that hill and on that cross was the only way to pay for your sins, and save your soul. The love of Jesus propelled Him up that hill, wounds and all, so that He could save you.
As for Simon? He observed a Passover celebration that year that no one would ever forget. Mark 15:21 says “And they compel one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross.” Simon had just come in from out of the country, likely to celebrate the Passover. What wound up happening, however, was that He accompanied the Lamb of God to the sacrifice that would ultimately take away the sins of the world.
I don’t know if Simon believed in Jesus before this moment, but I believe he became a believer afterward. I believe Simon was a key figure in the early church, as his two sons were well-known enough to be referenced by Mark as he recorded the crucifixion of Christ. Simon was going about business as usual, until he was met by Christ, and then was forever changed.
What about you? Have you met Christ? Did it change your life