"For a brief and affecting moment, Jesus did not bear his cross alone. Simon of Cyrene, of whom history knows so little, was forced by Roman soldiers to help Jesus carry his cross when its burden became too much for him to bear."
—From Ch. 30 ("Sharing the Burden"), Jesus Journey
In chapter thirty of Jesus Journey, Trent continues to narrow the gap between our understanding of Jesus Christ as the "I am," the "Ancient One," the "Messiah," the "Son of the Blessed One," the "King," and Jesus of Nazareth as someone betrayed by a friend, wrongfully accused, severely beaten, and sentenced to death. Along this trajectory of seeing Jesus as fully human, Trent emphasizes the raw frailty of Jesus' body, focusing on the moment when Simon of Cyrene steps in and shares "the physical burden of Jesus' cross."
It's a crucial moment when two agendas meet in a vivid exchange. We see Jesus carrying both the physical burden of the cross, and the spiritual burden of "our sins" (1 Peter 2:23). One can only imagine that the combination of the weight and awkwardness of the cross, coupled with the immensity of his suffering, is so overwhelming that he comes to a place where he simply can't go on any longer. All of a sudden Simon is summoned (I've been reading a lot of Dr. Seuss lately!), and he steps in with a moment's notice, alleviates Jesus' burden, and they continue together.
On the one hand, it's hard to think that Jesus the "Messiah" needed help to carry out the Messianic vision and plan, much less from some random dude from Cyrene. It's much more comforting to imagine that one of his disciples was on hand and jumped in to help, but that's not what happened. In a way, this is yet another heavy reminder that even his closest friends and followers had abandoned him, adding further insult to injury. This was a crucial moment of Jesus coming to terms with the limits of his temporary body, and accepting them.
There are so many different perspectives that we could take on who and what Simon of Cyrene represents in this passage. At the very least, it seems that Simon was able—and available—so he was chosen to serve the "King." While at first glance it may appear that Simon got the raw end of the deal, being forced to carry a heavy load to a place where he wasn't headed. Looking closer, as Trent suggests, we see "the extraordinary legacy that Simon of Cyrene left his family: he is the only other human in history who, at least for a little while, shared the physical burden of Jesus' cross."
Today's guest post is by Matt Trimble: Born in Memphis, TN, Matt has since lived in Kuwait, Los Angeles, and Boston. He is a Christ follower, the founder and principal of Radlab (radlabinc.com), and an Assistant Professor of Architecture at the American University of Sharjah. He, his wife Candice, and their two kids currently live between the United Arab Emirates and the United States. You can follow him on Instagram @matthew.a.trimble and @radlabinc.
Photo credits: Chelsea Hudson