Simon of Cyrene: Picked Out of the Crowd

I left Judea as a young man in quest of fame and fortune to settle in Cyrene overlooking the Mediterranean on the northern edge of Africa (eastern Libya). I am now fifteen years older and a little wiser. I have given up on fame, having found what is truly important—a wife, Angela, and two sons, Alexander, age ten, and Rufus, age eight.

Angela's family came to Cyrene from Greece to grow silphium, a medicinal herb that has been in much demand. After Angela and I were married, I joined the family business as a trader, and now travel to Rome, Athens, Alexandria, and Jerusalem to sell silphium to the local shopkeepers in those cities.

Spring has arrived, and I am needing to make a trip to Jerusalem. When I told Angela, she asked, "Simon, why don't you take Alexander, Rufus, and me with you to Jerusalem? The Mediterranean is never more blue than during the calm days of spring."

"What about school?", I protested halfheartedly.

"I'll take along the Hebrew scrolls so the boys can study aboard ship. In Jerusalem they can practice speaking Hebrew with the shopkeepers you call on. Just think of the history they can learn in such an ancient city."

As you might have guessed, I gave in. Travel would be a little slower, I suppose, but, then again, it won't be quite so lonely.

So with that we were off, and our journey to Jerusalem had begun. After three weeks at sea with only a stop at Alexandria, we landed at the port of Caesarea near Jerusalem. From my previous trips to Jerusalem, I was familiar with several inns that could house my family. Angela picked the one she liked best. One afternoon we decided to visit the temple. All four of us stood beside Solomon's Porch gawking up at the top of the temple, one hundred and fifty feet above. My sons had never seen such an impressive structure. Those passing by could easily tell that we were from the country.

On Friday morning, I awoke before Angela and the boys. This was to be our last day in Jerusalem before returning home. On the previous days, we had toured the historic sites and spent quite a bit of time in the marketplace, where I sold my silphium, but today we would climb Golgotha Hill and get a panoramic view of the city. It was a sight I just knew the boys would remember forever.

It was a half hour before midmorning when we began our climb. There seemed to be an unusually large number of people out, and I wondered why the path was so crowded. Looking back over the heads of the crowd, I could see a man who had been severely lashed and beaten. Angela heard me gasp when He stumbled as He tried to carry the heavy crossbeam for a cross. Out of sheer fright, she tightly gripped the hands of Alexander and Rufus. I was glad they were still small enough not to be able to see over the heads of those around them.

As the Roman soldier scanned the crowd, he fixed his eyes on mine, "You there, carry the cross!," he bellowed.

Quickly I glanced at Angela, but I knew what I must do. Terror struck her eyes as I stepped out of the crowd.

The soldier motioned for me to bend down then placed the heavy crossbeam on my shoulder. As I trudged forward, the crowds taunted the man I was carrying the cross for. Some even spit in His face. Others called out His name—Jesus. Then I wondered to myself, "What could He have done to have deserved such a horrible fate?"

When we reached the top of the hill, the Roman soldiers lifted the crossbeam from my shoulder and laid it on the ground next to a plaque that read, "King of the Jews." My heart pounded in my throat, as much from fear as from the heavy load. I wanted to rush back to find my family, but something held me captive as I looked into the face of this "King of the Jews." His body was beaten and bruised. In places, it was even bleeding. He didn't look like a king, but when He fixed His eyes on mine and said, "Thank you, Simon," I knew that He was no ordinary man.

Based on Mark 15-21.

Copyright 1997 by John C. Westervelt

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