Mark 15:21-32 (ESV)
21 And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. 22 And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull). 23 And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. 25 And it was the third hour when they crucified him. 26 And the inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” 27 And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left. 29 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, 30 save yourself, and come down from the cross!” 31 So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32 Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.
Mark transitions us from the beating and mocking Jesus received via the hundreds of Roman soldiers in the governor’s palace right to the crucifixion. We can forget what a horrific method of execution crucifixion was since we are surrounded by images of crosses in western culture. We find crosses on sweaters, earrings, cups, and even stickers. We probably wouldn’t think of putting an electric chair on our t-shirt or necklace, but we should consider that even though it may seem absurd, the electric chair is tame compared to the cross. Even in the first century, the cross was extreme. No citizen of Rome could be sentenced to crucifixion. It was a painful, prolonged, and torturous death reserved only for slaves and those considered the dregs of society. By the time Jesus was forced to carry his cross to the crucifixion site, his body was so broken and beaten that he didn’t have the strength to do it. A bystander named Simon from northern Africa was drafted to carry it instead of Jesus. Since crucifixions took place outside of the city, Jesus was driven to Golgotha to be executed. Verse 24 begins with, “And they crucified him.” As Jesus was hanging on the cross, the taunting and the tormenting from those around him continued. It just didn’t stop. Even those who were being crucified around him joined in the mockery (v. 32).
It has been said that Simon was the very first person to literally carry the command of Jesus to pick up the cross and follow him. Mark explains that Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus, who were probably members of the church at Rome where the apostle Paul spent time. Some say that possibly Simon’s carrying of the cross of Christ factored into the salvation of Alexander and Rufus. Simon probably had no idea of how God could and would work the bizarre situation he was placed in for some benefit in his life and the lives of countless others. If Simon became a believer, then Romans 8:28 promised him, as it promises us, that all things work together for good so that Christians may be more like Jesus. If God is allowing some strange situation in your life today, trust him and walk through it in the way he desires. God has a purpose in every detail of what he orchestrates in the lives of those who follow Jesus.