I'm certain you know the Palm Sunday story. Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey as people laid palm branches and their cloaks in his path cheering, "Hosanna! Blessed be the Son of David!" Jesus spent much of what we call the Passion Week teaching and combating with the national Jewish leaders who conspired to arrest and kill him. When Jesus allowed it, they did. It was around 2 AM Friday morning. They tied his hands and rammed him through three mockeries of justice trials.
With his hands still tied and after much mocking, spitting upon and punching Jesus in the face, all Sanhedrin members present paraded Jesus through the streets of Jerusalem in a show of unity and force to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate for trial and execution. (Luk 23:1).
Luke 23:2 And they began to accuse him, saying, "We have found THIS MAN subverting our nation.
Luke 23:4 Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, "I find no basis for a charge against THIS MAN."
Luke 23:14 and said to them, "You brought me THIS MAN as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him.
Luke 23:18 With one voice they cried out, "Away with THIS MAN! Release Barabbas to us!"
They all had a problem saying the name of THIS MAN. There is something about saying "Jesus." They projected THIS MAN as incidental, insignificant, an imposter, unimportant, and scum. Though Jesus changed lives and families, delivered people from bondages, healed multitudes, and taught mercy, love, and kindness, he was projected as incidental, insignificant, an imposter, unimportant, and scum. He was no more than "THIS MAN."
Many today project THIS MAN as incidental, insignificant, an imposter, unimportant, and scum. Though he changed the world and continues to change lives and families, delivers people from bondages, heals multitudes, and teaches mercy, love, and kindness, he is projected as insignificant and no more than "THIS MAN." Who is he to you? Is he only "THIS MAN"? How insignificant is THIS MAN to you?
Jesus then went through three Roman trials. The first was before Pilate. Pilate's verdict: Not guilty! The second was before Herod, governor of Galilee in town for Passover. Herod's verdict: Not guilty! The third was back before Pilate. Around this time Pilate received an urgent message. "Psst! We have a message from your wife."
Matthew 27:19 While Pilate was sitting on the judge's seat, his wife sent him this message: "Don't have anything to do with THAT innocent MAN, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him."
Now what do you do, Pilate? People are beginning to riot screaming crucify Jesus. Your wife is telling you to free Jesus, but you are already on the bad side of Emperor Tiberius from three previous Jewish riots under your watch. Your career is at stake Pilate? What do you do?
Luke 23:22 For the third time he spoke to them: "Why? What crime has THIS MAN committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him."
Again Pilate's verdict: Not guilty!
Luke 23:23-25 But with loud shouts they INSISTENTLY DEMANDED THAT HE BE CRUCIFIED, and their shouts prevailed. So Pilate decided to grant their demand. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to THEIR WILL.
Their will was not only THIS MAN dead. They wanted THIS MAN crucified. Crucifixion was far more than execution. Humiliation, excruciating pain, and slow death were what crucifixion was about. It was about scourging which included not only beating. Scourging also included extreme mocking, humiliation, and torture. They wanted THIS MAN crucified. So, to prevent a riot and save his career, Pilate sold his soul. Do people do this today? I mean, aren't' most careers more important than THIS MAN? Pilate thought it was to him.
Matthew 27:24-25 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an UPROAR WAS STARTING, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. "I am innocent of THIS MAN'S blood," he said. "It is your RESPONSIBILITY!" All the people answered, "LET HIS BLOOD BE ON US AND ON OUR CHILDREN!"
What a chilling declaration! The truth is their projection of THIS MAN to their children was their responsibility. Are our children our responsibility concerning THIS MAN? Is he projected as incidental, insignificant, an imposter, unimportant, and scum?
A Roman death squad consisted of professional executioners trained and knowledgeable concerning death by crucifixion. They scourged THIS MAN in all its humiliation and mockery, injected a crown of thorns on his head, draped a purple robe on him, hit him on the head with a stick, and punched him in the face (Joh 19:1-16). They led THIS MAN away and something amazing takes place.
Luke 23:26 As they led him away, they SEIZED Simon from Cyrene, WHO WAS ON HIS WAY IN FROM THE COUNTRY, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.
Carrying your own cross to the place you would die was a part of the humiliation of crucifixion. Simon from Cyrene, a Jew from Africa (Libya) coming for the Passover, had only minutes entered Jerusalem when seized. People came from all over the known world for the feasts (Act 2:10) especially Passover. Some believe this Simon was a black man who converted to Judaism. I pray he was. What a wonderful way for the ways of God to be displayed showing God's inclusion for this Simon from Cyrene was allowed and honored to do something no other human was allowed, though at the moment it did not seem an honor. Simon literally carried the cross for THIS MAN!
Upon entering Jerusalem, Simon encountered the death parade. Roman soldiers herded three men carrying crosses surrounded and followed by an angry screaming mob whose rage focused on one cross carried by a beaten bloody man with a weird crown of thorns stuck in his head. THIS MAN was obviously despised and rejected. THIS MAN must be a hardened criminal if detested so badly. As Simon observed, the executioners seized Simon and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind THIS MAN.
I know we've been told Jesus was physically struggling from the beatings, lack of sleep, exhaustion, etc, but the Bible doesn't say this. The other two carrying crosses were beaten also. Scourging was an inclusive aspect of crucifixion anyone crucified went through. All three were mentally and physically beaten and exhausted. Jesus was/is a powerful man. He single-handedly drove people out of the temple with no resistance. Crowds wanted to stone him, but he walked through the mist of them. No one messed with Jesus and only punched him when his hands were tied. In my mind, Jesus was a big and powerful man. More likely the soldiers sensed a riot forming around them concerning THIS MAN. The bloodthirsty crowd feeling deceived by THIS MAN was whipped into a killing frenzy by the Jewish leaders and wantedblood. In this dangerous unstable environment THIS MAN wasn't moving quickly enough. The soldiers seized Simon to speed up the death parade.
We are not told why the death squad selected Simon from Cyrene and this passage about him would seem accidental and incidental on the surface. It appears a random event to a casual reader, but we can be certain there were no random events in these immortal last steps to the cross. Every single step was planned by God from the foundation (Rev 13:8) in HD video and audio - every word, every scream, every action, and every encounter. Simon from Cyrene was no accidental or random encounter. You are no accidental encounter. No more did Simon from Cyrene simply wonder into Jerusalem on this day at this moment than did you simply wonder into this place at this moment. Let's read the verse again.
Luke 23:26 As they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and PUT THE CROSS ON HIM AND MADE HIM CARRY IT BEHIND JESUS.
It was a decent walk to the place of the Skull - Golgotha. What do you suspect THIS MAN said to Simon from Cyrene? Simon must have initially thought THIS MAN was a hardened criminal to be hated by people as he was and crucified, but something happened on Simon's journey to Golgotha behind THIS MAN. Here is what Mark wrote concerning the identical event.
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.
This Simon, his city, and his family became recognized and respected names to the first century church. Simon, his wife, and his sons became believers and followers of Jesus Christ. A church began in Cyrene in Africa. I wonder who could have begun it. The church in Cyrene Africa sent preachers to a city called Antioch about 300 miles north of Jerusalem. I realize most of you don't know church history, but it's my job to know and knowing makes this seemingly random encounter not random at all.
Acts 11:20-21 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and CYRENE, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord's hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.
Acts 11:26 The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.
It was at Antioch Apostle Paul (then Saul of Tarsus) began his teaching ministry (Act 11:25-26). From Antioch Apostle Paul made three missionary journeys into the entire Roman Empire establishing churches. In case you don't know who Apostle Paul was, he is the author of about half of the New Testament which greatly impacts your and my life today even if you are not a believer. Writing to the church in Rome, Paul said,
Romans 16:13 Greet RUFUS, CHOSEN IN THE LORD, and HIS MOTHER, who has been a mother to me, too.
Rufus was Simon from Cyrene's son who became a chosen person for ministry in the Lord. He's bringing this epistle to the church at Rome along with his mother, Simon's wife, who was as a mother to the Paul.
The bizarre encounter of Simon from Cyrene with the cross was orchestrated by God. While the angry crowd screamed, "Crucify him. Let his blood be on us and on our children!" God had Simon from Cyrene coming into Jerusalem at an exact moment to find salvation for himself, take salvation to his wife, his children, his city, to Antioch, sending out Apostle Paul, and very likely, because of Simon from Cyrene, salvation eventually came to you and me.
Simon of Cyrene carried the cross for THIS MAN he'd never met, but on the journey between Jerusalem and Golgotha something more amazing happened than we can understand. The thief hanging next to Jesus on the cross said,
Luke 23:41-42 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But THIS MAN has done nothing wrong." Then he said, "JESUS, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
Mark 15:39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, HEARD HIS CRY AND SAW HOW HE DIED, he said, "Surely THIS MAN WAS THE SON OF GOD!"
THIS MAN wasn't incidental, insignificant, an imposter, unimportant, or scum. He is Jesus, King of the kingdom of God capable even when dying on the cross to take you into his kingdom. When you hear his cry for you and see how he died for you, your realize THIS MAN is the son of God. Simon from Cyrene heard his cry. Simon from Cyrene saw how he died. Have you? Simon from Cyrene proves there are no coincidences in God. You didn't just wonder into this building today.
At what seemed to be the weakest moment in the life of Jesus was one of the strongest. It wasn't the death squad who seized Simon from the crowd. It was God. He did the same with many of you and me. He wants you to help carry his cross. Something will happen so deeply within you it will not only impact you. It will impact your family, your friends, and who knows how many or where. It may seem so incidental, accidental, and random. No. THIS MAN became Simon's savior. THIS MAN desires to become Jesus Christ, Savior to you.
© Life Gate Ministries