And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. (Mark 15:21)
I’m always fascinated by Simon’s experience as he simply walks through a gate into Jerusalem and is conscripted to carry Jesus’ cross to Golgotha. I imagine he’s just gotten into town from a town in northern Africa and he has no idea what is going on. Suddenly a soldier grabs him, says, “Carry this,” and just like that he is part of the passion of Jesus.
It’s like walking into a restaurant and someone hands you a tray full of plates of food, saying, “This is for table eight.” Or you walk into a hospital and someone hands you some scrubs, saying, “You’ll be assisting in room 1220.” Imagine walking into the zoo and someone hands you a huge piece of meat, saying, “The tigers get irritated if you don’t feed them by four.”
When you’re recruited by Roman soldiers, you have no choice. They say, “Carry this cross,” you carry the cross. All the while you’re thinking, “What in the world is going on here?” Or, “Boy did I pick a bad day to come into town.” Or, “My back is going to be killing me tomorrow.”
What do you do when you get dragged into the story of Jesus? What do you do when out of the blue someone asks, “You go to church, don’t you? I have a question…” Or someone overhears you praying before a meal at a restaurant and asks, “Can you pray for my family?” Or someone knocks at your door (at an inconvenient time, of course) and greets you with the question, “Would you like to know more about Jesus?” Or you see a panhandler by the side of the road with a sign that says, “God bless you” and all you can think about is the “least of these” in Matthew 25?
Like it or not, you are part of the story. “God so loved the world…” includes you. Jesus was born, died, rose and ascended for you. You might have to carry a cross. You might have to give a reason for the hope you have. You might have to visit someone in prison. You might have to give someone a place to sleep. You might have to teach children. Or sit with someone in a nursing home, hospice, or a funeral home.
Guess what? You are part of the story!
Thank you, heavenly Father, for including me in the story of Jesus! Amen.