I love the Bible. I am familiar with the bulk of stories and yet every once in a while when I start digging, God gives me gems that made me giddy.
So as we near Easter, here is a little bit of work with a guy who doesn't have much ink spilled about him in the Scriptures but had a pretty significant role...His name is Simon of Cyrene.
Matthew, Mark and Luke were the three gospel writers who mentioned Simon. Mark gives us a slightly modified couple of verses, because he adds mention of his sons that were with him:
"They compelled a passer-by who was coming in from the country to carry his cross, it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus..."
That's it. Dude carries the cross for Jesus presumably because Jesus was so beaten and broken that he couldn't do it alone.
And dude is 'compelled by the soldiers'...we don't know what that means, but when I think of a Roman soldier compelling someone to action, it is with violent threat of force.
Anyways, why does Mark mention the two sons while Matthew and Luke omitted them from the story?
Perhaps the answer is that Mark is appealing primarily to a Roman audience in his writing, whereas Luke and Matthew had their own respective audiences they were writing to. "Big Deal", you might think. And I would say you are exactly right...it is a big deal.
Simon was from Cyrene (North Africa). It is quite possible that this Simon is the same guy mentioned in Acts 13:1-2 as 'Simeon called Niger'. Simeon was a derivative of Simon (Simon Peter, the disciple is referred to as Simeon in Acts 15:14). He was called Niger, which means black, likely because of his darker complexion. If Simon of Cyrene was from North Africa, this could be the same guy.
This guy was a leader of the Antioch Church (that ultimately sent Paul on his missionary journeys.) Not only was he a leader, but he may have helped found the church in Antioch. Acts 11:19-29.
Simon is barely mentioned by name in Scripture and we don't know for sure what happened to him after he carried the cross with Christ, but, if this is the same man, he was transformed by Jesus and gave his life to following His lead.
So back to the kids and the Roman audience? Paul, in his letter to the Romans, writes in Romans 16:13, "Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; and greet his mother--a mother to me also."
So (potentially), Simon of Cyrene came to Christ, started the church in Antioch and also led his wife and son to Christ. Then somehow the family went from Antioch to Rome and helped start the church at the center of the Roman Empire! Not only this, but Paul saw Simon's wife as his own mother in the faith. It is possible that this guy who was basically thrown into Jesus' last moments of his journey to the cross was forever changed by that encounter and then forever changed the world by church planting at Antioch and Rome and his wife nurtured the apostle Paul, the writer of much of the New Testament in his own faith, like a mother!
This just pumps me up.
Because we have no idea what God can and will do in us when we get caught up in His story rather than our own!
It starts with an encounter.
It continues with surrender.