As I watched The Passion of the Christ the other night, a certain character made his way into my heart for the first time. While I was deeply pained and tears burst forth, I could not take my eyes off Simon of Cyrene. This little-known player in the Passion had me transfixed on the road to Calvary.
The Romans essentially plucked him from the chaotic crowd and demanded he help the suffering Savior.
What was going on in his head and heart as this outrageous offer was made on his behalf? The movie does an amazing job depicting his initial reaction of disgust and unwillingness. He tries to resist and runs away when they first call to him…
Once the militant men on horses have seized him, they force the heavy cross onto his body and he is literally and figuratively face to face with Jesus. His reaction now has begun to change. There is a moment where there is an exchange within their eyes- and for the first time, you see a softer side of Simon. There is confusion and a spark of sorrow as he looks closely upon the blood-stains and brokenness. It must have felt as though the cross was entirely too heavy for one man, almost two. Yet, Jesus walks on- tired, weary, and purposeful.
The two continue on the long road, with its twists and turns, lined with onlookers- some weeping and some spitting. But all eyes are on the cross.
Its weight, crushing the bodies beneath it, digging deep into the wounds of Jesus and into the shoulders of Simon.
They are walking together, arm in arm, sharing the unbearable burden.
If we look closer, we could possibly see how alike we are to this unlikely character…
We, like Simon, are often plucked from the masses to carry a burden we never asked for, never wanted, never thought was meant for us. It seems to us- unbearable, without an end in sight, and void of purpose.
But, if we choose to walk this journey with our Savior, arm in arm, allowing his gaze upon the final purpose to be ours… I believe we might be able to be changed as a result. We are not alone on this journey to suffering. He is always with us, sharing in our trials- strengthening us when we are weak, too frightened and unsure as what lies ahead. His promise of rebuilding and resurrection comes to life in all of us if we will only have faith.
What ever happened to Simon of Cyrene as he left the traumatic scene that day, having walked side by side with our Hope-full Hero to the place of his sacrifice?
There are almost no accounts, which to me, as a story-writing enthusiast, is inexplicably intriguing. Is it because it allows us to place ourselves directly in his shoes? I believe it is up to us to decide what happened next. Because it is the same question being asked of us all…
What will happen next? To you, to me? What will our direction be? I believe with every fiber of my being that Simon of Cyrene was a different man when he walked away. So, will we be changed from this journey we are on? I pray the answer on this day as we remember all that was done for us, is a resounding, rejoicing, reuniting “yes.”
Imagine the joy awaiting us this Easter at the empty tomb…