As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. Matt. 27:32
OK, so who was this guy Simon, and why do three of the four Gospel writers decide to include his name in the telling of the story? I know from my study bible notes that it was common place for the Roman guards to get someone to carry the cross for a person on their way to be crucified if that person (as was the case with Jesus) was too weak to do it themselves. The impression I get from that, and from how I envision the scene is that they simply grabbed Simon as he was passing by. I know a few Hollywood versions of that scene depict Simon volunteering for the job, but I’m not sure scripture paints that picture. My other research on Simon of Cyrene doesn’t turn up much about him either.
What really strikes me is that I also know that some translations use the word “compelled” or “pressed” instead of “forced.” Which, on the outset may not seem different, but to some extent they are a bit less aggressive sounding then “forced.” In fact, I feel like the word “compelled” is closer to the truth here. While Simon may not have actually volunteered for the job, I suspect it was God’s plan to compel him to be in that place at that time to do what needed doing.
What’s interesting is that the account doesn’t indicate Simon’s reluctance. When asked (compelled) to step up for the Lord, he did so willingly, without complaint. How often have I complained about stepping up for the Lord? How many times has God compelled me to be in a place and be faced with opportunities to advance His kingdom? How many times have I failed to do just that? While Simon may have been just a passer by, I can’t imagine his life wasn’t changed after that day. My life was changed when I accepted Jesus Christ into my heart. My life now needs to be about stepping up when he compels me!
God, help me to get past praying for the courage to answer your compelling call, and to actually step up and be the man you want me to be! Amen