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Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Bluebird (photo by Ester)
Ester snapped a photo of this rather plump bluebird.

"Simon of Cyrene"

Note: This week we are considering witnesses during the events of Holy Week that are rather incidental to the main story, but like each of us, they also have a story.

Message summary: Simon of Cyrene 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!

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

"And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14). "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).

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.

This week we 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. Pastor John Keefer once mused 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.

One of my many all-time favorite hymns is, "When I Survey The Wondrous Cross" by Isaac Watts. This week we are considering 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.

Simon of Cyrene carrying crossOne of the moving scenes in the film, "The Passion of the Christ" is 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 when 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 of Cyrene with Jesus 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 out from 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 an interesting detail 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!

On the Vía Dolorosa 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!

Our first verse portion may initially seem to have nothing to do with today's account. It concerns Esther at a critical point in Jewish history. Mordecai called her to action in doing her part to save the Jews with these words, "And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?" Mordecai realized that God had providentially placed Esther where she was for a greater purpose than she initially thought. This sense of divinely ordained purpose has been called "Esther moments".

Likewise Simon of Cyrene was where he was for a greater purpose than simply attending the Passover Celebration when he was enlisted to carry the cross which was essentially his "Esther moment". We all need to seek to discover what our "Esther moments" are in life.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily 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 Savior 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. 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's sacrificial death. Thank You, Father, for Jesus in whose name we pray. Amen.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

Simon of Cyrene monologue
Simon of Cyrene  Video  The Skit Guys (4:39 minutes)
This powerful video tells the story of Simon of Cyrene in a dramatic and personal monologue for a very moving perspective.

"Vía Dolorosa"  Video  Veritas

Finally today:

Sadie with ball
Our pets are enjoying our being home around the clock these days, oblivious to the reason we are not visiting our usual workplaces. There's always a ball or frisbee to fetch or a walk to be enjoyed these days.

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 to have a sense of when the events took place as we 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: Matthew 21:12,13; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45,46


Jesus' authority challenged in the temple: Matthew 21:23-27; Mark 11:27-33; Luke 20:1-8
Jesus teaches stories and confronts the Jewish leaders: Matthew. 21:28-23:36; Mark 12:1-40; Luke 20:9-47 
Greeks ask to see Jesus: John 12:20-26
The Olivet Discourse: Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21:5-38
Judas agrees to betray Jesus: Matthew 26:14-16; Mark 14:10,11; Luke 22:3-6


The Last Supper:  Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-20
Jesus speaks to the disciples in the upper room:  John 13-17
Jesus struggles in Garden of Gethsemane: Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46; John 18:1
Jesus is betrayed and arrested: Matthew 26:47-56; Mark 14:43-52; Luke 22:47-53; John 18:2-12


Jesus is tried by Jewish and Roman authorities and disowned by Peter: Matthew 26:57-27:2, 11-31; Mark 14:53-15:20; Luke 22:54-23:25; John 18:13-19:16
Jesus is crucified and buried: Matthew 27:31-56; Mark 15:20-41; Luke 23:26-49; John 19:17-30


The glorious resurrection: Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-11; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-18

(This material is developed from an outline provided in the Life Application Bible.)

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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