Mark 15:21 “They *pressed into service a passer-by coming from the country, Simon of Cyrene (the father of Alexander and Rufus), to bear His cross.”
Jews were supposed to attend three feasts in Jerusalem yearly. For those living in Palestine this was not a really major trip, perhaps a three or four days’ walk at most. But for many Jews, the ones living outside of Palestine, attending one of the feasts (usually the Passover, since it was considered to be the most important one) was a big deal. Such a trip was often a once in a lifetime event. Even today, a common greeting at the end of the Passover feast among Jews is, “Next year in Jerusalem!”—this pilgrimage to Jerusalem is still for many a once in a lifetime trip.
Simon of Cyrene was one of those non-Palestinian Jews making his great (and perhaps only) pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover feast. Cyrene was a country in north Africa, presently Libya, a long way to travel. How excited Simon must have been! It was not “Next year in Jerusalem” for him; it was going to be this year! I wonder what he thought as he saw the city walls for the first time. Perhaps he had even been singing one of the Psalms known as the “Songs of Ascent” (Psalms 120-134), traveling hymns for the pilgrimage approaching Jerusalem for Passover. But suddenly in the midst of all this excitement and spiritual anticipation, he was conscripted by a Gentile Roman soldier to carry a cross, an unclean curse, for a man named Jesus of Nazareth! Carrying a cross rendered Simon, the pilgrim who had come all the way from Cyrene, unclean and unable to participate in the Passover. He had come all this way, made a trip of a lifetime, only to be disqualified by having approached the wrong gate to the city at the wrong time. A ruined trip. Or was it?
What now? He could have gone off kicking dirt, feeling cheated and sorry for himself, but something evidently made him curious enough to stick around and watch things on Golgotha and come to a wonderful discovery.
Though we don’t know the details of what happened, maybe by the providence of God he stood beside John, Mary, and some of the the women who wept at the unfolding execution. Maybe he asked why; maybe John told him; maybe he watched to the end; maybe he continued to associate with the disciples and heard the awesome news, “He is risen!”; and maybe he became among the first to obey on the day of Pentecost. Just think of it, a disciple of the One who “ruined” his Passover. What we know for sure is that his sons, Rufus and Alexander, were well known to the church and the Christians to whom Mark (15:21) originally wrote (probably the church in Rome), which strongly implies that he himself came to believe and obey. He came to observe a traditional Jewish Passover unsuspecting that he would meet and be included in the great drama of the sacrifice of the one great Passover Lamb of God.
How ruined were things for Simon? They were about as ruined as Simon allowed them to be. Instead of kicking the dirt all the way back to Cyrene, he allowed God to do something grand. We’ve all had ruined things before—ruined plans, weekends, moods, holidays; or even more serious, marriages, careers, health, financial situations, etc. They can still be about as ruined as we’ll let them be. We can allow God to work and still do something grand.
How? First, bring it to the Lord in prayer. Second, bring it to the Lord in the Scriptures. Third, do what is right (what the Lord says, not what you want to do). Fourth, keep doing right and wait for the Lord.