Today’s Reading: Mark 15
Today we come to the darkest day in human history: the crucifixion of Jesus.
Calvary shows how far people will go in sin—and how far God will go for our salvation (God always goes a step further, loving us). Every step that Jesus took to the cross said, I love you to every person in history.
As we study the crucifixion, we need to look at something that happened on the way to the cross, which has huge significance:
After they had mocked Him, they took the purple robe off Him and put His own garments on Him. And they led Him out to crucify Him. They pressed into service a passer-by coming from the country, Simon of Cyrene (the father of Alexander and Rufus), to bear His cross. (Mark 15:20-21)
The Bible not only tells us the name of the man who carried Jesus’ cross, Simon of Cyrene, it also tells us the names of his children. We know this about Simon: he was a father of two boys, Alexander and Rufus, and also it was not his plan or desire to carry the cross of Jesus. The Bible says in verse 21 that they pressed him into service. Simon wasn’t even a spectator, he was just a “passer-by,” whom they had to force to carry the cross.
Can you imagine the family story if your dad carried Jesus’ cross? I come from a storytelling family and this would have been the story around our dinner table (where we told most of our stories with very loud Italian emotion and hands flying everywhere).
Seriously, though, can you imagine if one of those stories from your dad was, “Did I ever tell you the time when I was in Jerusalem, minding my own business, and a Roman soldier pulled me out of the crowd?”
As a father, I want to live such a godly life in front of my children that I will not have to say to them, “Don’t do what I did.” I want to say to them, “Live how I lived.” I want them to imitate me.
I wonder if that’s what Simon told Rufus? Do you know the father-and-son relationship between Simon and Rufus? Do you know these two biblical names?
In Romans 16:13, most historians and commentators believe that the Rufus mentioned there was the son of a cross carrier. And not just a cross carrier, but the cross carrier: “Greet Rufus, a choice man in the Lord, also his mother and mine.”
Rufus was the son of Simon of Cyrene, the man who was called out of the crowd to carry the cross of Jesus. And that family’s introduction to faith in Jesus could have very well started on the day the dad carried Jesus’ actual cross.
Can you imagine Rufus hearing the story from his father about that day of the redemption of the planet? It was Simon not only being in the right place at the right time, but being willing to do the right thing when called upon.
Cross carrying is not out of style. It’s still on our agenda. But not one time only. Luke 9:23 tells us something about taking up a cross: “[Jesus] was saying to them all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”
It isn’t one-and-done, like Simon’s literal experience. It’s daily, right in your home, on your campus, at your job. So what does taking up your cross look like?
What Simon did was interrupt his plans and his life at whatever expense for Jesus.
Each day Jesus will interrupt us. It could be that He’s leading us to apologize, to compliment, to encourage, to correct. It could be in generosity, giving to the poor, stopping and praying with someone. Taking up our cross is when our plans are interrupted by God to do whatever He needs us to do.
It could be as simple as wanting to watch Netflix or FOX news or CNN or ESPN, and God interrupts you and says, My plan is for you to be with your family or be in the Word of God. That can happen, that’s the cross, interrupting what you want to do, and doing what God is wanting you to do.
Taking up your cross daily is when Jesus calls upon you to do something for Him. No one cheered for Simon that day, except heaven.
Just as Rufus knew his father carried the cross, I want my children to know that when I was called on to carry the cross, I did it each day.
Theologian A. W. Tozer explains the results of a cross-carrying person: “There are three marks of one who is crucified. One, he is facing in only one direction. Two, he can never turn back. And three, he no longer has any plans of his own.”
I hope that what can always be said of you and me.