The soldier called him out from the crowd.
“What could they ever want with me?” he thought. But he dare not disobey so he stepped forward, terrified and incredulous.
“Carry it!” the soldier demanded gruffly pointing to the heavy wooden cross the prisoner was dragging. (Mark 15:21)
Simon could see that the man might soon collapse and indeed in just that moment the man did drop his burden falling to his knees. Simon quickly grabbed up the end and with one mighty heave placed it on his own shoulder. He looked deep into the eyes of the one plodding painfully to his death. Simon, shocked by what he saw there, instantly wanted to offer the man at least a hand up to his feet…but again he dare not. Instead Simon took the first step, and then the next, lumbering on under the tremendous load secretly hoping this man found some momentary respite. Had that been a slight crack of acknowledgement on the prisoners face, he wondered?
It was Friday.
Jesus, being fully human, needed help. Sometimes we do, don’t we. Beyond anguished in both body and soul he was surely ready to collapse. After all he had been severely whipped and beaten and abused all night long to within an inch of his life- but they wanted him alive. He knew full well the torment still ahead of him though no matter what he would complete the task the Father had set before him. (Hebrews 12:2) He had seen the instant compassion on Simon’s face as every fiber of his body cried out in temporary relief when Simon took over the load. “Remember Simon that I love you,” Jesus thought. “I’m doing this for you, and for the owner of each voice in the roaring condemning crowd throughout eternity.”
It was Friday.
Jesus, being fully God, did not need Simon’s help. He could have called upon an angel to carry the cross or a legion of them to whisk him back to heaven, but he did not. His resolve was set. He would endure the torture to come. The job would be done.
It was Friday.
Taking up Jesus’ cross was the single most important task Simon had ever done or ever would do even though he didn’t know it at the time. He had felt something unexplainable stir deep in his soul. Even after barely getting that tree of execution to the top of the hill Simon could not turn away. He had stumbled as that same soldier roughly shoved him aside. Compelled he had watched the whole hideous affair. Simon felt his own soul crush and wince and still he did not know why.
But it was just Friday.
“How long must I get these gory assignments? I should have been promoted by now,” the soldier mused. “Could that have been compassion and gratitude I saw flash between the prisoner and the man I called out to carry the cross? No, it couldn’t have been. Why would anyone feel compassion for this Jesus? Besides he is dead now and we are done with him. Very strange and remarkable day though especially with the blackness and the earth quaking,” he pondered that evening. It was however the single most important encounter of his life though he did not know it at the time.
But it was still only Friday.
Finally Saturday all was eerily quiet and still.
THEN SUNDAY CAME!
“”He is not here; He is risen!” Luke 24:6
Later the next week the soldier heard the most extraordinary rumors. He could scarcely believe them…and yet, Friday had been a very incredibly astonishing day.
“Eventually I realized that Jesus was no ordinary criminal,” he told his family. “I think I may have witnessed the death of the Son of God. Could he really be alive?”
Simon headed back home to Cyrene. The Passover was over and with it all the commotion in Jerusalem had finally subsided. But he couldn’t get that man’s eyes out of his mind.
“What was it they called him-Jesus? Jesus, the one you say is not dead at all but rose out of the tomb?” he asked his friends. “Could this be the same man for whom I was summoned to carry the cross? He was about to collapse without my help before he even made it to Golgotha. Sometimes we need our friends,” he said as he smiled and slapped his pal on back. Yet Simon’s thoughts ran deep, very deep.
“If any of you want to be my follower you must put aside your own pleasure and shoulder your cross and follow me closely.” Luke 9:23
He is calling us out… because indeed Sunday did come!