Stumbling toward the cross – Station 5

Station 5: Simon helps Jesus carry his cross

In Station 5 we reflect on the man named Simon of Cyrene, pulled out from among the crowd to help Jesus carry his cross toward Golgotha. In the Gospel of Mark, this image brings to reality an earlier teaching of Jesus found in Mark 8, but with a curious twist.

Mark 8:34

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

This challenge from Jesus is deeply opposed to our Western and privileged lives, as we are embedded in a culture where the sort of downward oriented life that Jesus invites people into is the antithesis of success, security and stability. Jesus repeatedly tells people who follow him and would be followers that the path he will lead them down will be one of frustration, pain, friction, confusion and disorientation. This is so true that when it came time for Jesus to be executed by the state, none of his followers took up their own crosses by identifying themselves with him.

Mark 15:21

A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross.

Mark has Jesus literally acting out what it means to deny himself and take up the cross, which is juxtaposed with Simon of Cyrene–a man who found himself in the procession by accident–being pulled into the theatre of torture. Simon of Cyrene is forced to carry the cross that Jesus could not bear on his own anymore. None of his closest friends would step out into the procession and face the fear and pain and humiliation with him, so a stranger and outsider is brought to center stage to trudge the via dolorosa with Jesus while those who followed him simply watched. I realize how often I am paralyzed by fear and judgment to the point that I refrain from aligning myself with what I really believe, or am afraid that I will lose my voice should I speak what is really on my heart.

Prayer: May I have the courage to unwaveringly align myself with Jesus and what he stood for, and the courage and desire to deny myself to create room for the Spirit and for others.


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