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Tuesday, March 22, 2016
"Surveying the Cross"
Simon of Cyrene
Message Summary: Simon carried the cross to Golgotha, the place of the crucifixion, and nothing more is written of him. I consider that he very likely stayed and witnessed the crucifixion, perhaps along with his sons. What was he thinking as he carried the blood stained cross? Did Jesus say anything to him along the way? How did he react when he saw the crucifixion begin? What did he tell his sons? How did he live the rest of his life? These are surely some of the questions I will ask when I get to heaven!
Note: Today we share a link to a powerful video that tells the story of Simon of Cyrene in a rather dramatic and personal monologue. Although we hope you read our message we also encourage our readers to take the 9 minutes it takes to watch this video for a very moving perspective. If possible use full screen.
Listen to this message on your audio player.
"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 15:21).
Today I ask you to recall the most famous person you ever met directly or a famous historic event you directly witnessed. Grover Devault is an elderly chaplain friend who served as a military chaplain. Just as he began his career in the early sixties he arrived early at the National Prayer Breakfast and sat down as the first attendee in the large room. President John F. Kennedy walked in and saw Grover sitting alone. He walked across the room, greeted him in person and encouraged him in his service as a newly commissioned chaplain. Now that would be quite an outstanding and memorable honor!
Not nearly as famous as meeting a U.S. president, yet Brooksyne had an unusual experience in our pastoral ministry back in the early 80's only a few years after Dr. James Dobson started his radio ministry, "Focus on the Family". We had ordered a video series of his teachings on raising the family for our church. One afternoon she answered our phone, only to hear, "Hello, I'm James Dobson with Focus on the Family." (We had some trouble with getting promotional materials we ordered along with the videos and he wanted to see if we had received them. In fact he was very bothered that we had the problem in the first place. I expect that kind of duty was delegated to others within a short time thereafter, but we had even greater respect for the integrity of his ministry after that phone call.)
Today we want to consider those who witnessed one of the greatest events of all time. I write "one of" because I consider various times and settings in the life of Christ that could all be counted among the greatest. There are those who were present at the time of His birth, His teaching, His resurrection and His ascension. Our pastor told us Sunday that he hoped a "video" would be shown in heaven where we could watch a recording of the Sermon on the Mount. I never thought of that but it would be neat if we could see videos of landmark events of the Bible, especially with the actual characters present to further explain, clarify, and affirm the work of God in that setting. I am sure the video would be presented in a state of the art clarity we could hardly imagine at the present.
One of my many all-time favorite hymns is, "When I Survey The Wondrous Cross" by Isaac Watts. The next several days let us consider those who were actually there when our Lord was crucified and those who "surveyed" the wondrous act of God's mercy demonstrated in Christ's sufferings and the Cross.
One of the moving scenes in the film, "The Passion of the Christ" is that of Simon of Cyrene assisting Christ by helping carry His cross. At first the film portrays a forceful conscription with a very unwilling Simon. However as the scene progresses it shows Christ and Simon with their arms around each other's shoulders, bearing the heavy, rugged cross together. I was so touched was I viewed this.
Simon was likely coming into the city as a Jew to participate in the Passover. He was from Cyrene in Africa and many have conjectured that he may have been a black man. The Jewish people had been dispersed and many were living in colonies throughout the world. One colony goes all the way back to the message that the Queen of Sheba took back to Ethiopia at the time of Solomon in about 1000 BC. In Acts 8 we have the record of the Ethiopian eunuch. This colony survived to our own day and many were brought back to Israel in a remarkable airlift known as Operation Solomon.
Simon was on his way in from the country when he was forced to carry the cross. All three synoptic gospels emphasize his forced conscription. Matthew states he was "pressed into service" and Luke states "they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene." His direction was turned 180 degrees. Coming in from the country to the city he was now going outfrom the city to the country. This day was surely not going as he had planned when he awakened that morning to attend the Passover celebration! Only Mark points out that he was the father of two sons, Alexander and Rufus, possibly known personally to the initial readers. Rufus is mentioned by Paul in Romans 16 and many Bible students feel this refers to one of these boys. If so that makes it even more interesting!
Simon carried the cross to Golgotha, the place of the crucifixion, and nothing more is written of him. I consider that he very likely stayed and witnessed the crucifixion, perhaps along with his sons. What was he thinking as he carried the blood stained cross? Did Jesus say anything to him along the way? How did he react when he saw the crucifixion begin? What did he tell his sons? How did he live the rest of his life? These are surely some of the questions I will ask when I get to heaven!
In the video I suggest watching today Simon realizes at the end that Christ was really dying for him. During his deep introspection he considers Christ's tremendous sacrifice on his behalf and offers this compelling thought, "That was the day I helped Jesus carry my cross. He hung and died on my cross."
Let us together live for the glory of the One who died for each one of us on the Cross.
When I survey the wondrous Cross,
On which the Prince of Glory died.
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Father, when we survey the wondrous cross; the events that led up to this most important time period in history, our hearts are stirred with a contemplative blend of contrition and joyful gratitude for the sin debt You paid on our behalf. The weight of the cross, so heavy that our beaten Saviour fell beneath its heavy load, is symbolic of the crushing debt load of sin He carried on our behalf. So heavy in fact that You, our Father God, had to turn away from Your beloved Son as He alone bore the sin of the world. That supremely dark hour was cringing for the loving onlookers as their beloved breathed His last. Over two days Christ's dead body lay in a tomb while His followers were grievous, fearful, questioning, filled with confusion, doubt, regret and without direction. But that would soon change and their lives, along with millions throughout the centuries - ours included - were forever changed and eternally secured through the blood bought Lamb of God's sacrifice. Thank You, Father, for Jesus in whose name we pray. Amen.
Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
Again, here is the link to the short dramatic presentation referred to above concerning Simon of Cyrene. Very well done as if it happened in our own time and Simon is telling his story.
"When I Survey The Wondrous Cross" Video Homecoming Singers with several solos
"Only By the Blood" Video Brian Free And Assurance Brooksyne suggested this since she likes it very much. The choir will be singing it in their musical on Easter Sunday. It has a catchy musical tune along with a powerful message pointing out the superiority of Christ's blood for forgiveness of sin vs. the "altars that ran red year after year" speaking of the animal blood sacrifices.
Major Events of the Passion Week
An astounding 30 of the 89 accumulative chapters in the four gospels cover the period beginning with Christ's triumphal entry through His resurrection and post-resurrection appearances. Mathematically this means that approximately 33% of the written material in the Gospels deals with a mere .05% period of His life! In the providence of God we have a much greater proportion of Scriptural revelation dealing with God's greatest act of mercy in providing our redemption.
Here's an interesting chart from a Study Bible that may be helpful as you study the Bible this week. It sure helps me to have a sense of when the events took place and is inspiring to read these Scriptures in the daily sequence leading up to Easter.
Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem: Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:29-40; John 12:12-19
Jesus Clears the Temple: Mt. 21:12,13; Mk. 11:15-17; Lk. 19:45,46
Jesus' authority challenged in the temple: Mt. 21:23-27; Mk. 11:27-33; Lk. 20:1-8
Jesus teaches stories and confronts the Jewish leaders: Mt. 21:28-23:36; Mk. 12:1-40; Lk. 20:9-47
Greeks ask to see Jesus: Jn. 12:20-26
The Olivet Discourse: Mt. 24; Mk. 13; Lk. 21:5-38
Judas agrees to betray Jesus: Mt. 26:14-16; Mk. 14:10,11; Lk. 22:3-6
The Last Supper: Mt. 26:26-29; Mk. 14:22-25; Lk. 22:14-20
Jesus speaks to the disciples in the upper room: Jn 13-17
Jesus struggles in Garden of Gethsemane: Mt. 26:36-46; Mk. 14:32-42; Lk. 22:39-46; Jn. 18:1
Jesus is betrayed and arrested: Mt. 26:47-56; Mk. 14:43-52; Lk. 22:47-53; Jn. 18:2-12
Jesus is tried by Jewish and Roman authorities and disowned by Peter: Mt 26:57-27:2, 11-31; Mk 14:53-15:20; Lk 22:54-23:25; Jn 18:13-19:16
Jesus is crucified and buried: Mt 27:31-56; Mk 15:20-41; Lk 23:26-49; Jn 19:17-30
The glorious resurrection: Mt. 28:1-10; Mk 16:1-11; Lk 24:1-12; Jn 20:1-18
(This material is developed from an outline provided in the Life Application Bible)
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