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May 9, 2021 | Chris Baselice
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“A passerby named Simon, who was from Cyrene, was coming in from the countryside just then, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus' cross. (Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus.)”—Mark 15:21 (NLT)
Has anyone ever admonished you to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes? Has someone ever pleaded with you by saying, “Put yourself in my shoes”? This popular expression recommends that before judging someone, you should first understand his or her experiences, struggles, and thought process, that you see things from their perspective. The full idiom says, “Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes.” The saying is believed to have originated from Mary T. Lathrap’s poem Walk a Mile in His Moccasins, published in 1895. Essentially, it’s a call for empathy and compassion.
Now imagine for a second, having walked what is commonly referred to as the Via Dolorosa (Latin for “the way of suffering”), the path Jesus took on His way to the crucifixion. John 19:17 tells us that, at least for a part of the journey, Jesus carried His own cross. But somewhere along the way, Mark 15:22 implies that Jesus could no longer carry His own weight, let alone the cross, and thus had to be brought to Golgotha. So, the Romans forced a man named Simon, an innocent passerby who apparently knew nothing about Jesus Christ when the cross was laid on his shoulders.
According to nineteenth century theologian Alexander MacLaren, “He would be reluctant to undertake the humiliating task . . .” Of course he would! No one would want to be seen carrying a Roman cross for any reason. No one would want to be associated with that. Am I now going to be lumped in with this criminal? What will all these people watching think? Talk about walking a mile in someone’s shoes.
But here’s the thing about walking with Jesus: It changes you! You’re never the same after you’ve walked with Christ. In this completely unique and unheard of moment, man suffered with God! Simon suffered along with Jesus. He literally struggled with the weight of the cross that Jesus would soon die upon. No one else can say they did that. No one else can say they had the honor of carrying the wood for the offering of eternity alongside the Son of God, the King of kings, and Lord of lords. How can you NOT be changed by that? How can you walk away from that and still be the same person you were before? That mile—or however long it was—would ensure that Simon’s life, heart, and world would never be the same again.
MacLaren continued, saying that Simon “would plod along behind Him for a while, sullen and discontented, but by degrees be touched by more of sympathy, and get closer and closer to the Sufferer. And if he stood by the Cross when it was fixed, and saw all that transpired there, no wonder if, at last, after more or less protracted thought and search, he came to understand who He was that he had helped, and to yield himself to Him wholly.”
But there’s something to note here: The way Simon is described by Mark. He is called “the father of Alexander and Rufus.” Consider that nothing, not a single world or name, in the Bible is there superfluously or without significance. Richard Bauckham wrote, “The case is not parallel to that of Mary the mother of James the little and Joses (Mark 15:40), where the sons serve to distinguish this Mary from others, because Simon (very common though this name was) is already sufficiently distinguished by reference to his native place, Cyrene.”
It’s believed that Simon’s sons remained well-known figures, telling their father’s story of the crucifixion of Jesus. Many scholars even believe that the Rufus mentioned in Romans 16:13 is one of the sons of Simon. Isn’t that amazing? It speaks volumes to me about how one person’s personal encounter with Jesus can so deeply impact and change the lives of the people around them.
Today, as we remember the events of the crucifixion, I invite you to remember Jesus’ encounter with Simon. Remember how his walk with Christ changed not only his life, but the lives of his sons and wife. And consider how your walk with the risen Christ can impact the lives of those around you!