Thumper…

April 1, 2018

The Interruption

Most of us have been there. We’re focused on a task or a goal and what we’re doing and tuned everything else out. We know what has to be done, what we need to do and the steps to take to get to the end destination and achieve the task or goal. Maybe we’re enjoying the journey as we go, but we never move our eyes too far away from the end goal. When we’re in that zone, any interruption causes us irritation, is annoying (or can get us angry) and is generally fairly unwelcome. As soon as we can, we get back to what we were trying to do.

But what happens when that interruption is bigger than a mere distraction and has life changing consequences. How do you react then?

Let’s pick up the story of Simon, a Cyrenian, who was in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus crucifixion.

Mark 15:21 “Then they 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 His cross.” (Also found in Luke 23:26 and Matt 27:32). For more background to the environment in Jerusalem at the time, take a read of Luke 23:13-47. It was a place of unrest and upheaval, with civil riots, hostility and unhappy mobs. Being around the time of the Jewish Passover, there were many people visiting the town, swelling the population. There were those stirring up hostility toward the Jews, and of course there were also those trying to go quietly about their business and stay out of trouble. It’s in that melting pot of cultures and differences that we find Simon and his two sons.

At this point, we don’t know a lot about Simon. We know that he was a father to Alexander and Rufus, was from the Cyrene area and was visiting Jerusalem. Cyrene was a Jewish area, around 900miles, or 1450km west from Jerusalem. It took over a month of walking to get there.

It was a coastal town, so there’s a good chance he’d heard about Jesus or the works of Jesus, perhaps even thinking he’d find out more about him by going to Jerusalem, but arriving in Jerusalem, he wouldn’t have expected the uprising that he found. It was also on every Jew’s bucket list to visit Jerusalem to participate in Passover. It’s a pilgrimage and is a big deal, perhaps a once in a lifetime opportunity for those a long way from Jerusalem such as Simon. Simon was focused on getting to Jerusalem and participating in the Passover. That was his goal.

Simon is innocently walking along, minding his own business, when he finds himself in a situation that has become immortalized for all time and retold millions of times. As he’s walking along the crowded streets of Jerusalem, trying desperately to keep his sons by his side, he hears a commotion going on not far from him. Perhaps he is curious as to what is going on, for no doubt he would have realised there was something different happening here as opposed to other parts of the streets. He is curious, but not wanting to get involved. He hesitatingly draws closer, moving slowly through the crowd. Being from another area, the accents could be hard to pick up – that’s if he even understands exactly what they’re saying. Perhaps he needs a moment or two to work it out, as you often do when you hear different languages or accents being spoken. As he’s drawn closer to the commotion, Jesus stumbles and the mob crowding around the spectacle hastily back away and retreat. As Jesus stumbles, the Roman soldiers look around and find Simon, who, in the confusion, doesn’t move quick enough and finds himself closer to the front than he would have liked. Then being an outsider, the crowd pushes him even closer to the front, placing him as a barrier between themselves and the Roman soldiers in a selfish act of self preservation by the crowd.

The Roman soldiers reach for Simon, who makes a lame attempt at protesting his innocence – lame because he knows what happens to those the Romans aren’t happy with, regardless of their innocence or guilt. The Romans treat him roughly, and push him toward Jesus and the cross lying on the ground. Whatever he was carrying has now been stripped from him and possibly even trampled underfoot or distributed by the remainder of the mob. His two sons are quite possibly nearby, but extremely frightened, wondering what will become of their father.

Simon now finds himself almost doubled over by the weight of the heavy wooden cross, taking one step after another, wondering how he found himself in this position. At first Simon’s reaction would have been one of reluctance – he definitely wasn’t a willing participant in this story. Fear of man would have kicked in – what are these people going to do to me? They are angry. Will the soldiers kill me or will they let me go to be finished off by the mob? And he may have been wondering – if this is Jesus, why is He being crucified? What has happened, what was going on? Confusion would have reigned supreme in Simon’s mind.

Simon, an innocent bystander, is now playing a crucial role in the crucifixion of Jesus. What is running through his head? He was focused on getting to the Passover festival. Even the abnormal crowds had got him slightly annoyed as they delayed his journey. Now he was going in completely the opposite direction and further away from his destination. Simon was also now covered in the blood of Jesus that was covering the cross. It dawned on him that he was now unclean and unable to participate in the Passover. This interruption was not only a major detour, but now it had derailed his entire purpose for coming to Jerusalem. He had come all this way, only to come so close, but yet to be so far away from participating in his lifelong ambition.

As time went on and Simon completed what the Roman soldiers had forced him to do, what would Simon have been thinking? As he watched Jesus crucified, did he realise he was playing a crucial role in something much bigger than he could ever have imagined? Did those feelings of disappointment and anger give way to awe, excitement and reverence at being involved and having a unique first hand account of the crucifixion of Jesus?

After the initial shock, we know Simon’s reaction. He went on to become a Christian and live a life filled with faith and love. He was most likely well known among the Roman church because of the way he was referred to in the three gospels. Alexander and Rufus, his two sons who were bystanders to the scene, both became leaders in the early church.

The story of the cross will disrupt our lives. How will you react? With annoyance, reluctance and fear of man? Or excitement, reverence and awe? Will you allow the interruption to take your life on a new course, like Simon did, or will you shrug it off and keep doing what you’ve always done?

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not die but have eternal life.

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