Simone of Cyrene: Suffering that Reveals
Some days we only take a few steps and run unexpectedly into the world’s suffering. At the grocery store, you bump into someone who is on the verge of tears, obviously upset. Or a street person asks for money, telling us about how hard life is for them just now. As we are looking at these last days of Jesus’ life, we see this play out in the encounter with Simon of Cyrene. He is from Africa, a pilgrim coming to take part in the Passover festival in Jerusalem. He just happens to be on the street when Jesus stumbles, falls and is no longer able to carry his cross. Simon moves immediately from the sidelines to center stage. We meet him only briefly but the story around him says much. We imagine Simon being forever changed by helping Jesus with the burden of the cross, this terrible implement of torture and crucifixion. How many of us in this past week have found ourselves in just such a situation, face to face with unexpected suffering, with someone’s pain as Simon did? How will we respond in such a moment?
When God brings us face to face with the suffering of the world, God is certainly there with us. We may discover something powerful about another’s life or the pain that has gripped them. We may discover something about ourselves-maybe our judgment that wants to respond, maybe our empathy or maybe we’re just filled with questions. But in these moments God moves in us. Simon of Cyrene is transformed by meeting and helping Jesus. He becomes a Christian. As he carried the cross, he learned firsthand something so powerful about discipleship, about what God asks of us. He became right then the servant of God who although compelled by the Roman soldiers to help, ends up transformed by his journey with Jesus. Perhaps he stayed near the cross to find out more about this man he had helped. Perhaps he stuck around Jerusalem after hearing the amazing news of the resurrection.
Sunday, we’ll talk about the five questions the Passion story asks of us and how we will answer for ourselves. As we worship, we meet the suffering God who meets us and the world in pain. We meet and worship the God who always helps us when we are carrying the large burdens of our lives.
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