Friday, 2 March 2018

Lent 3: Simon carries the cross: Gill Roberts

Mark 15.21: A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross.

It was during my IGR at Glastonbury that Simon of Cyrene really attracted my attention.  The Stations of the Cross in the garden are nearly all simply titles on plaques.  Nevertheless, as I walked around the garden reading them, I halted and focused my thoughts on Simon.  What did I know of him?  So very little.  But I couldn’t help but sympathise with this visitor – up from the country to take part in the Passover celebrations.  Little did he know how things would turn out for him.

And here he is!  

Don’t you just love his blue trainers!  Obviously bought specially for his trip to Jerusalem!  Were they designer ones?  This was a special occasion.  He probably expected to meet up with Jewish relatives and friends and see the sights. 
Caught up in the crowds, experiencing the noise, the bustle and excitement of being here in Jerusalem, it was a dream come true!  And watching the crucifixion procession – there was nothing unusual about that.  But then, the procession halts.  The convicted man has fallen.  It’s a poignant moment.  What will happen?  Will there be beatings?  But no!  There’s a finger pointing, beckoning - a Roman soldier’s finger.  You can imagine Simon’s first instinct is to look around to see if it was someone else being beckoned - and then to back away.  But there could be no escape.  He’s in the thick of it…
What does his expression say to you?
What’s going through his mind?
This isn’t fair.
I’ve been picked on again – just because of my skin.
Isn’t it the lot of us outsiders?  Just because we look different…
Who is this man anyway?  I know he’s a dead weight.

Look at the contrasts between the two men -
Simon strong and youthful looking, alert to what’s going on, responsive to insult and injury.  All dressed up and everywhere to go – but compelled to go the way of the cross.

Jesus, weary, exhausted, barely able to lean on the cross, let alone carry it.  He’s not saying a word – just going the way of the cross – the way He’s always known He would have to go …  
He was oppressed and afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
    and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.

Look how the plant in the background echoes His demeanour.
Do you hear the echo of Palm Sunday?  “I tell you, if these (people) were silent, the very stones would cry out.”…. But here the plants cannot even hold up their heads.  Have they come out in sympathy?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
    and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.

And yet we cry - “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”
Were you, Simon, like us, changed by the proximity of Jesus?  Where did you go in your new, blue trainers?  What did you do?  Where am I going?  What am I doing?

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