Friday, June 22, 2012

Pressed Into Service

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. — Mark 15:21 (NASB95)

I have come to believe that there are no random encounters. God is always at work, leading us to times and places where we might meet him. – Bryan Wilkerson

I have often wondered about Simon of Cyrene. He doesn’t get much attention, but what a fantastic role he played. This is the man who was forced to help Jesus carry the cross to the hill where the crucifixion took place. That’s really all we know about him. Or is it?

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all name the man from Cyrene who was “pressed into service” as a cross-bearer. But Mark tells us more. He informs us that Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus. There is much speculation that perhaps these two sons are both named by Paul in some of his writings. It’s certainly possible, but there really isn’t any firm information identifying them as the same men. That isn’t necessary to make a very important point. Whomever Alexander and Rufus were, they were evidently men known by the readers of Mark’s gospel. He simply refers to them in a way that assumes his readers would know them. What that very likely means is that at least Alexander and Rufus were Christians, followers of Jesus.

It doesn’t take much imagination to connect some dots. Their father, Simon of Cyrene, having been forced to carry Jesus’ cross to the execution site, was very likely also a witness to the crucifixion. We don’t know if he’d been anywhere near Jesus before that, but the implication from the fact that his sons were both known by the early church suggests that Simon may well have become a believer, and subsequently his two sons believed in Jesus.

What a grand legacy that is. A man is forced to carry a condemned man’s cross. He witnesses that man’s death, and at some point comes to believe that the executed man is the Messiah. He becomes a follower. His two sons after him become believers. Then by the time Mark writes his gospel account, the sons are both well known to the church. Was it just a chance encounter that day? Had Simon not been there, it’s likely somebody else would have been pressed into service, but the fact is he was there. That encounter led to a legacy of faith in his family. Don’t miss your opportunities to be pressed into service. You might deprive your children of something that will change their eternity.