March 20, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Mark 15:21 (NET)
The soldiers forced a passerby to carry his cross, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country (he was the father of Alexander and Rufus).
Simon of Cyrene gives us the lesson of God’s providence and participation in painful things that reveal God’s grace.
It may have been ordinary weather, but the gravity of the day’s events would make even mild weather feel like the sun; they would scorch the earth and make cold days feel like the tundra. You could sense all of it pressing down on him. Walking through the crowd, he recognized all their fickle responses, which oscillated from the ecstatic “Hosanna!” one day to the venomous “Crucify” by week’s end. All that blood. The uneven weight of a cross beam as he walked the path toward certain death. The heaviness of soldiers doing their Roman work perfectly, as Pharisees and rule keepers looked on in approval at what was to come. There was too much weight – physical and mental – for one human being to handle. It was too much and he was too weak. Everything seemed lost in this moment. He had walked as far as he could and there was nothing left in him.
Most people would not choose to pick up responsibility when the circumstances are this dire. But these are exactly the circumstances that Simon of Cyrene wandered into. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all share this moment in Jesus’s journey to the cross to unfold this gracious lesson. God’s providence brings this North African into the moment perfectly and ends the gospel journey where it began: God will use whom he chooses, when he chooses. And when he chooses his favored ones, the Roman soldiers or the Pharisees or even institutions will not get in the way. Even if Simon had been inside of a large fish, God would have gotten him to Jerusalem to carry a cross a short distance if that’s what God wanted to do. Simon’s bearing of the cross of Jesus is a beautiful moment of incompletion. It’s part of a work in progress.
Some can bear the humiliation from fickle crowds. Some may be able to endure the weight of a wood beam. Some may be able to walk 1,800 kilometers in order to carry someone else’s cross. And others may actually be able to withstand the physical bludgeoning from various forms of opposition. Each one of us is different. Each one of us will be called differently.
The reality is that sometimes you and I will have to bear weight just like Simon did. It is all part of God’s cosmic weaving. Simon only gets a glimpse of the physical weight of wood, but Jesus bears the weight of humanity’s sin and the Father’s wrath. Jesus bears your cross, my cross. And when we receive this gift, we offer ourselves as cross bearers for others in his name.
Where do you see God’s timing as frustrating to your plans where in reality God is actually making things good?
What do you see about the privilege of leading even when the circumstances are extremely difficult?
Have you ever experienced others helping you to carry your cross? When? What was that like for you?
Have you ever helped others to carry their cross? What happened? How did this affect you?
Even as Simon carried the cross of Jesus, so we can carry the “crosses” of others, especially those who are especially weighed down, those on the fringe. Take a moment and give conscious thought to what you can do to help carry someone’s cross. How can you serve others on the fringe?
We are grateful to you, God, for placing us in your grand narrative. Make us humble and mindful that none can bear what only your Son could do. Remind me to see others around me who are carrying their cross and how I might be able to help them today. Amen.
Note from Mark:
It’s my pleasure to introduce you to a new Life for Leaders writer, Delano Sheffield. I got to know Sheff, as he’s called, when he became one of my students in a doctoral cohort I lead on faith, work, economics, and vocation. I was impressed with Sheff’s excellent mind and big heart. Professionally, he is both an engineer and a pastor, someone who lives each day the integration of faith and work. I have learned much from Sheff through his writings in my cohort. I know he’ll be a blessing to you through his Life for Leaders devotions. – Mark
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: The Eighth Station: Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus to Carry His Cross
DeLano J. Sheffield is the Business Resource Specialist for Goodwill of MoKan where he connects to people on the fringes, training them to reach their full potential through learning and the power of work; he also is on the frontlines of the advances of the fourth industrial revolution and coaches leaders on diversity, inclusion, and accessibility. He began his career as an architectural engineer then went on to attend seminary. In every part of his life he finds ways to infuse theology into vocation, and strengthen practical connections of faith and daily activity. DeLano lives in Kansas City, Missouri.