A little-known Bible character can help us understand what many are experiencing at this pivotal and bewildering moment in history. He was someone who never intended to get involved. Content to live in obscurity, he never wanted to be a celebrity. He would be shocked to know he’d be celebrated in the pages of Scripture and become a role model for Christians in 2020.
Mark 15:21 describes this man as “a passerby” who happened to stumble upon the most important event in human history. Although the event took place in Jerusalem, this man was a visitor from Cyrene, a small city in northern Africa. Far away from home, he was “coming in from the countryside” when he encountered the spectacle of Jesus carrying His cross toward Golgotha.
I’ve always loved the Forest Gump movie, where a simple man unexpectedly found himself inserted into the most momentous events of his day. But the story of Simon of Cyrene was even more incredible. He was minding his own business and going about his life, when “just like that” he became part of the greatest story ever told.
Jesus had been brutally beaten – tortured nearly to death – by the Roman soldiers. His back had been torn to shreds by the ordeal, and his strength was gone. As Jesus strode the Via Dolorosa on the way to Calvary, He struggled under the weight of His cross.
That’s when the soldiers spotted Simon of Cyrene in the crowd. Rather than being a previous follower of Jesus, he came upon the scene as a mere spectator that day. And though he surely felt compassion at the horrifying sight of the bloody Savior, Simon never volunteered for service that day. Instead, we read that the soldiers “compelled” him to carry Jesus’ cross (Matthew 27:32).
Simon’s story unexpectedly came to mind yesterday when I was with some friends who were praying for persecuted believers around the world. They noted that Christians in some countries are bravely facing imprisonment or death because of their faith. Others have lost jobs or experienced financial hardships just for following Jesus.
As we prayed for these heart-rending situations unfolding in our day, I sensed the Holy Spirit speak a very clear and surprising word to me:
“THIS IS A ‘SIMON OF CYRENE’ MOMENT!”
Suddenly I saw the faces of countless people around the world who, like Simon, have been thrust into battles they never wanted. Who would have thought that truckers – yes, TRUCKERS! – would be on the frontlines in today’s battle against tyranny? It would have been unimaginable a year ago.
But long before the present standoff involving truck convoys, other believers been called upon to display great courage. These unlikely heroes have included…
…bakers unwilling to participate in celebrations they deemed immoral.
…healthcare workers, considered heroes just a year ago, no willing to lose their jobs rather than submit to vaccine mandates.
…pastors and podcasters censored or cancelled because their views aren’t politically correct.
…parents suddenly thrust into unwanted battles over what the schools are teaching their children.
Like Simon of Cyrene, none of these people were craving a soapbox. They didn’t choose the moment, but the moment chose them.
The Next Generation
At my advanced age, my entire focus is on impacting the next generation – my children, grandchildren, and other young people who are still deciding their course in life. If you haven’t figured out your life’s purpose yet, let me remind you what it is:
You are on this earth to leave a LEGACY.
Although the Bible only includes three brief verses about Simon Cyrene, Mark 15:61 contains a powerful tidbit of information in describing him as “the father of Alexander and Rufus.”
Wow. Do you see how significant this is? Simon had unwittingly become a part of the most important event in history – but the story didn’t end there.
Mark wrote his Gospel account several decades after Jesus’ death and resurrection, and we’re not told what happened to Simon of Cyrene after that. However, Mark notes that Simon was the dad of Alexander and Rufus – who apparently became well-known Christians in the early church.
Don’t miss this point: In the first century, Simon wasn’t only famous for carrying the cross of Jesus. He also was famous for raising two notable, godly sons. So if you’re a parent or grandparent reading Bible stories and praying with young kids, your time is not being wasted. Someday you might be blessed with a heritage like Alexander and Rufus.
You see, the example you set in courageously following Jesus will inevitably have a ripple effect. After carrying Jesus’ cross that fateful day, Simon of Cyrene passed back into obscurity. Yet his legacy lived on in the lives of his two sons, and his story continues to impact people ever since.
Friends, it seems God is calling more and more people to Simon of Cyrene moments. We were content to be bystanders. We hid behind our stained-glass churchianity and wanted nothing more than a quiet and peaceful life.
But at some moments in history, even the reluctant Simons are unexpectedly pressed into service. Queen Esther was no doubt like this, enjoying the comforts of her position until realizing the urgency of the hour. Like her, it’s no accident you’ve been placed at this time in history. Like her, God has called you and prepared you “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).
The Bible describes many similar stories, heroes such as Noah, Joseph, David, and Daniel. Daniel’s young friends – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego – got in trouble simply for refusing to bow down to the image of King Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 3). They were thrown into a fiery furnace meant for their destruction, but the Lord was there with them.
Those who refuse to bow down to political correctness can expect a fiery furnace once again today. But, as happened in Bible days, we can also expect God’s presence with us all along the way.
I don’t know what role the Lord wants you to play in the unfolding drama of our day. Yet I’m quite confident He hasn’t placed you at this time in history by accident. As happened to Simon of Cyrene, He sees you hiding in the crowd and is calling you forth to participate in His unfolding story.
Scary as this will be, it’s an unspeakable privilege to follow Jesus and carry His cross (Acts 4:18-20, 5:29, 5:40-42). And although it’s definitely not one of my favorite Scripture promises, Paul’s message still rings true: “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).