The cross means many things to many people.
For Romans in Jesus’ day, it was a deterrent. Criminals would be crucified on crosses to communicate one message: Don’t mess with Rome.
Over time, the cross has found itself in a dichotomous existence. The cross became both a symbol of torture and a symbol of relief. It became both a symbol of intimidation and a symbol of hope.
Ultimately, it became the symbol of Christianity.
We all know and remember Jesus’ words to take up our own cross and follow him (Luke 9:23). The words intimate a radical call to discipleship that requires us to endure hardships that come our way.
What about when one is required to take up Jesus’ cross? What about the man mentioned in passing in the Gospels?
His name was Simon and he hailed from Cyrene.
Mark’s Gospel records the following: “Then [the soldiers] compelled a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus, as he was coming out of the country and passing by, to bear [Jesus’] cross” (Mark 15:21).
Here was a man who was minding his own business. We’re not too sure why he was coming into town on that fateful day. Maybe he was among the many pilgrims making the trip for the Passover. I’m quite sure he didn’t have carrying the cross of a “criminal” on the agenda.
Yet, he was forced to carry Jesus’ cross. He had no choice, but let’s not trivialize his willingness to do so. Had he heard the Lord’s instruction to go two miles if forced to walk one (See Matthew 5:41)? We’re not sure? We certainly know one thing:
The day Simon encountered the cross his life was profoundly transformed.
Simon’s name means “harkening, listening.” I believe Simon lived up to his name on that day as Jesus trudged up to Calvary.
In being forced to carry Jesus’ cross, he was listening.
He was listening to God’s call to become a disciple of Christ. Simon’s life was never the same.
The cross has that kind of effect.
I recall countless stories of believers whose lives were changed the day they encountered the cross.
In that moment, they realize the selfless nature of the work of the cross, contrasted by the selfishness that characterized their lifestyle. They realize the transformative power of what seems to be, on first glance, merely two planks of wood.
Early church tradition suggests that Simon’s sons, Rufus and Alexander, became missionaries.
Imagine them hearing their father’s story growing up. “I went into town to grab a few turtle doves and came back having carried the cross of the Son of God.” I’m quite sure that story never grew old.
One man’s encounter with the cross led to generational encounters with the message of the cross.
Never discount your ability to impact your family with the message of the cross.
The message can break generational curses.
It can reconcile broken family relationships.
The cross may serve as the bridge you need to close the chasm that has existed in your family for decades.
The cross means many things to many people, but there is one word that sums up its message: transformation.
Think about how the cross has transformed your life. I challenge you to share that story with someone you’ve never shared it with. In taking up your cross, don’t ever forget about his.
Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2
By John C. Richards, Jr.