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Simon the Cyrenian – A Good Day to Be African (Part A)

Cross Reference Radio / Pastor Rick Gaston
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October 10, 2022 6:00 am

Simon the Cyrenian – A Good Day to Be African (Part A)

Cross Reference Radio / Pastor Rick Gaston

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October 10, 2022 6:00 am

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So Simon's shoulders were allowed to carry the cross of Christ so that Christ's cross could save Simon's soul on the way. Here he is on the way to the cross and he's doing business. It is amazing. It is deep.

We want depth. In Christ, in our lives. And it comes off the pages and it works its way into our lives through the Holy Spirit who filters it. This is Cross Reference Radio with our pastor and teacher Rick Gaston. Rick is the pastor of Calvary Chapel Mechanicsville. Pastor Rick is currently teaching through the book of Genesis.

Please stay with us after today's message to hear more information about Cross Reference Radio, specifically how you can get a free copy of this teaching. But for now, let's join Pastor Rick in the book of Mark chapter 15 as he begins his message, Simon the Cyrenian, A Good Day to be African. The title of the message with its character's name included is Simon the Cyrenian, A Good Day to be African. Our text is Mark's Gospel, chapter 15, verse 21. Then they compelled a certain man, Simon the Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus, as he was coming out of the country and passing by to bear his cross.

Most of us know this story. And in this verse and the parallel sections in the Gospel that talk about this moment, of course, Jesus the Lord is on his way to the crucifixion. And pretty almost as soon as they come out of the courts into the public area, they have to find someone to help him carry the cross.

I don't want to get ahead of myself because we have much to discuss. But just here in verse 21, then they compelled a certain man. They forced someone. He was a conscript at that moment. Simon a Cyrenian, we'll get to where that is momentarily, but that identifies the man who's going to help the Lord carry the cross.

It doesn't sound right, but it is right. The father of Alexander and Rufus, well that is critical. Again, we'll get to that. This narrows down the field of candidates as to who this is in the Bible. As he was coming out of the country, that is Simon passing by to bear his cross. Another face around the cross of Christ. There have been many of them.

And we've discussed some as we've gone through this series. There was the centurion and the soldiers with him, for example. There was Mary, the mother of the Lord.

There were many of them as mentioned. This character leaps into fame and immortality also as the man who carried the wooden cross of Christ. Mark specifies his birthplace, at least his hometown. Names his two sons to help locate him later in Scripture.

This is a stroke of the Holy Spirit that only he could do. When Mark wrote this, no doubt he knew Alexander and Rufus, and so he mentions them. But Paul's going to bring them up 20 years later.

We'll also see them in the church not long after this. Not Alexander and Rufus alone, but also Simon. I think the Holy Spirit also took the time to name Alexander as opposed to the Alexander the coppersmith who did Paul much harm. So here we have it separated.

This Alexander, the son of Simon the Cyrenian, is not the Alexander the coppersmith. Don't confuse them. That's what the Holy Spirit is saying to us. And so this is neither insignificant nor out of place.

It is very resourceful. Such a verse as this. In fact, the way I became the verse for tonight was just in my devotions reading through the Gospel of Mark in chapter 15. And it just jumped out at me. And at first I said, well, this is, you know, this is not enough information about Simon to commit to a solid opinion that is fruitful for the work of the kingdom. But I think that was wrong. The Holy Spirit began to point things out to me. He wouldn't let it go.

And here we are tonight. Now, Jesus was in extraordinary physical condition. Jerusalem, as well as Israel, is a land of inclines. It's just everywhere you're going, you're going uphill.

When you're going downhill, you're getting ready to go back uphill. And to go up the mountains, to go to the different villages, to travel along the roads, one would have to be very fit. That's important to this story. Because the reason why Mark and the other Gospel writers have this in here is to show us that his flesh had limitations that he chose not to override. This would go against those who would like to creep into the church magical and mythical ideas. We have enough of it in Roman Catholicism, for example. They're always reading some strange thing into the Scripture that's not there. I think it's a good exercise in the study of any Christian, of God's Word, to never read miracles into the moment.

You don't have to. They will show themselves. They're all over the pages in this story. But the Lord allowed himself to be limited in the flesh. The Via Dolorosa, or Dolorosa, the Latin for the way of sufferings, would normally have been just a short stroll outside the city. But because of the scourging, because of the loss of blood and the dehydration, this had become an almost impossible walk for the Christ while carrying the cross. And so our Lord allowed Simon, at this point in the story, to join him. He allowed the strain of the flesh to create this situation.

And this is really going to get, at least to me, very fascinating, very human, and very powerful all at the same time. And so his carriage of the cross was appropriate. It was appropriate that a man carry the cross to the place of the skull.

Why? Well, it never belonged to Jesus Christ. He was sinless. If anybody should not carry that cross, it was Jesus Christ.

That was one of the many statements at this moment why he allowed it to go down as it did. Isaiah chapter 53 verse 4, Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities and our chastisement. The chastisement for our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed.

That's what is going on in the story, though none of them know it except the one fulfilling it. And so Simon's shoulders were allowed to carry the cross of Christ so that Christ's cross could save Simon's soul on the way. Here he is on the way to the cross, and he's doing business.

It is amazing. It is deep. We want depth in Christ and our lives, and it comes off the pages and it works its way into our lives through the Holy Spirit who filters it. And this is what creates the hunger and thirst for righteousness, and we too need help at some point in our Christian walk to carry our cross. We need to help each other from time to time carry the cross.

Because life's hard. Life is a sinner, especially once you have a dose of holiness. And so here's what we do know about Simon in addition to his being brought into the carriage of the cross. We know that he was an African. Cyrene is a coastal city in North Africa.

It is just west of Egypt in that part of the world now known as Libya. We know that he was a convert to Judaism. You see his name, Shimon, Simon. It's not a Cyrenian name.

That is a Jewish name. And we also know that he was dark-skinned, a very important part of the story. That means he was ethnically African. And it is because he was dark-skinned that he was chosen to carry the cross in a very human way. I'm going to get to that.

I hope I have you on the edge of your seats. Why are we told that his skin is dark and where are we told that his skin was dark? Acts chapter 13. I point this out because many scholars don't want him to be dark-skinned. They want him to be a Jew who lived in Cyrene who came back to Jerusalem.

But I think the scripture refutes that very clearly, though you have to dig a little bit. Acts chapter 13, verse 1. Now in the church that was at Antioch, there were certain prophets and teachers. Barnabas. Simon, who is called Niger.

That's him. Right next to Barnabas. He's one of the pastors in the church at Antioch in Syria. That church surpassed. It eclipsed the church in Jerusalem. While the church in Jerusalem was fussing over circumcision and meat, the church at Antioch was reaching Jews from all over the world and slowly getting it ready for this influx of Gentiles that would come in. So much so that Paul evacuated Jerusalem and went to Antioch and it was from Antioch in this very same section of scripture that the Holy Spirit said separate to me, Paul and Barnabas, and I'll leave this church in the hands of these other prophets and teachers.

Simon, who is called Niger. That's the same man. I used to doubt this in scripture. I didn't see it. It didn't come out and say, no, this is the same man. So I thought, well, it may not be. A subsequent study has turned the lights on for me. I think of the Lord saying, you can discern the weather, but you can't tell the seasons of the Spirit. Are you a teacher of the law and you don't know these things, Nicodemus?

I don't want him to say that. Well, you know what? When I look at this, it's right there. Niger, that word is Latin. Well, for black. It is where Nigeria, it's connected. Nigeria gets its name. The country just south of Libya today is Niger, not the same as Nigeria, a neighboring country to Libya.

The Niger River, the Black River. In our society, this creates alarms in the heads of some folks, and unfortunately, that is how it is. But I'm not going to allow that to dictate to me what the scripture says. His being called black was not an insult. It was an honorary distinction.

This is Shimon. We call him black. He didn't have the racial things that belong to our society. Every people have learned to hate some other people regardless of skin color. Do you know in Bhutan, there's persecution from the more pure-blood Bhutanese against the Nepalese that have been there for 400 years in the land?

They look the same. There's persecution one against the other nonetheless. And it's kind of sickening that you got to do a Bible study and even bring up racism. But that's how it is.

We're not going to get away from that, but we're not going to let that infect what we're looking at here. This man was a leader in the church at Antioch. And the scripture, when they say, we called him this, it's the Holy Spirit saying, this is the black-skinned man from Cyrene who carried the cross. And it kind of backs up and lets you chew on that for a minute. Because the scripture doesn't have a problem with it.

People who have not thought matters through may have a great big problem with it. But you're going to have a bigger problem with the God of the word if you don't allow this to be reconciled. Now he had two sons, Alexander, and we'll get back to the dark-skinned of Simon because it's important to the story as I mentioned, but he had two sons, Alexander and Rufus as we specified, and a wife, thank God. These were known in the early church as servants. Over 20 years later in Romans 16, Paul says, greet Rufus chosen in the Lord and his mother and mine. He said, well this Rufus was a pretty common name back then. Yeah, but the Holy Spirit is linking it, connecting it. Mark knew his readers who were Roman primarily, he wrote to the Roman thinking, to the Roman mind, to the Christians dispersed under the influence of Rome. The Holy Spirit knew that when Mark was told or impressed to write these names that he would use it again.

This is going to resurface, he said. I will use this later in scripture. And so there we see Rufus in the church and his mother 20 years later and the math works perfectly.

A young mom 20 years later, no problems with that. But back to this complexion. It was the dark skin that awarded him the right to carry the cross according to the law of these Romans. It was an exclusive task in all the universe. He gets it. Without that, without this complexion, he would have missed the moment. Wouldn't have been his. Critical selection.

Why is that? Well, when they were leaving the courts and on their way to Golgotha, Jesus was physically spent as stated. The centurion knew he wasn't going to make it. He already knew, you see the other two, they had their breakfast. They weren't scourged that night. They had been sitting in confinement. They had their breakfast and off to the cross they went. The Lord was up all night.

He was abused physically and severely. Just the Roman scourge was enough to strike fear into anyone. Forget about the cross.

That makes it worse. But the scourge, if you're just going to give me the scourge, that's something to tremble over. And so the centurion knew he wasn't going to make it. So as soon as he stepped out and looked into the crowd, he said, I need to find somebody to carry this cross for this man. I'm not going to carry it.

My soldiers are not going to carry it. The cross was a shameful thing. And he couldn't have a Jew carry it either. And so they compelled a certain man, it says here in our text in Mark 15.

And this would turn out to be a good day for this African. He didn't know it at the time. Now I mentioned this was early in the march, that he was suddenly seized. Matthew chapter 27, verse 32, we read, Now as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. Him they compelled to bear his cross.

As they came out, that's how spent the flesh of the Lord was. And so the centurion, looking for a candidate that he could force to carry the cross less than a mile to Calvary. He couldn't pick a Jew. A Jew could have caused a scene. This was Passover season, don't forget. The city was loaded with Jewish men. It was mandated by God that the Jew come to Jerusalem for the Passover. That's why Simon the convert to Judaism was in Jerusalem. That's why we're told in Matthew 15, 21, he was coming out of the country and passing by. He was going into the city, coming out of the country.

It's put there so we can understand the moment. Now I will say that as he scanned the crowd, had he saw a Chinese man, that Chinese man would have been a candidate. Had he saw a Nordic, a blue-eyed blonde standing there, that individual would have been the candidate. Because they would have been distinct from the rest of the Jews. No Chinese man was there.

No Viking was there. But there was this African man, clearly distinct from everyone around him. That's the one that got the position. That's the one that qualified.

He was outstanding in many ways. And so, during this Passover season, flooded with men, this obedient convert to Judaism is put to shame. It's a shameful thing, the cross.

There was nothing good about it at all. There was no, unless he knew who this was, carrying the cross, which it was not possible for him to know, this was nothing but shame. It would have been shame for any of the disciples to carry this. To even be associated with the cross, to even touch it, would have been unacceptable.

Luke's Gospel, chapter 23, verse 26, Simon a Cyrenian, who was coming from the country, and on him they laid the cross that he might bear it after Jesus. And so he's walking behind the Lord, obedient to Judaism, having no choice. If he dared not resist the Roman authority, they would have killed him on the spot. But it's another insight into the man that he's in Jerusalem to be obedient. We find that he is zealous. It sort of reminds us of Cornelius in Acts, chapter 10. He, too, was a convert to Judaism. He was known for his dedication to God and his zeal for the Jew. This was the same type of man in Simon. Now, it's interesting that where Luke says Simon a Cyrenian, who was coming out of the country, that word there, argos in the Greek, denotes a cultivated field.

Remember, less than two months is going to be harvest, celebrated by the Pentecost, the bringing of the first fruits. Was he taking a shortcut through the field? Did he have business there? It's not said.

It's irrelevant. Perhaps he had a friend who owned the field who he was staying with. Jerusalem would have been crowded.

He might have been sleeping outside in the field. There would have been almost no room for him to find a place. Even to this day, to get an apartment overlooking the Temple Mount, you will pay big money. And the Jews, many of them that own these apartments, they only come once a year to those apartments. But they're so zealous for it, they won't give it up. That's how special Jerusalem is to be in the heart of any Jew who considers himself a child of the law of Moses.

And this man was one of those. And so now it's nine o'clock in the morning. He's getting an early start on morning worship. And then is now the shame that is attached to this specified for us in Acts. Well, first I'll take Hebrews chapter 12, verse 2. Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame. You would think the writer would say he endured the cross, despising the pain. Well, the pain is in the shame to be associated with this object.

And so this is what's going through, again, Simon's head. Acts chapter 5, so they departed from the presence of the council rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. Well, this didn't belong to this servant. This did not even belong to the apostles. They did not know how yet to suffer shame without the Holy Spirit. This is why oftentimes you find someone who confesses Christ, believes he is the Lord and Savior, is not filled with the Holy Spirit, and is afraid to tell people that I am a Christian, that I love the Lord Jesus Christ, and that I want to tell you about this Savior that is my Savior.

They're not filled with the Holy Spirit. Tarry in Jerusalem, you shall receive power. You shall be my witnesses, Jesus said. Going through his mind at this moment when he was picked must have been how did this happen to me?

How did I get selected for this? I don't think for one moment he pieced together what was going through the mind of the centurion because he identified, Simon identified with the Jews. He was one of them. The Roman, he's not looking at it that way. Life comes at you very quickly. Thank God this happened to me is what he would be saying for the rest of his life once the story was put together.

A Roman soldier did compel him to carry the cross, but the love of Christ compelled him to never put it down. You've been listening to Cross Reference Radio, the daily radio ministry of Pastor Rick Gaston of Calvary Chapel in Mechanicsville, Virginia. Pastor Rick is teaching from God's Word each time you tune in.

As we mentioned at the beginning of today's broadcast, this teaching is available free of charge at our website. Just visit That's We'd also like to encourage you to subscribe to the Cross Reference Radio podcast. Subscribing ensures that you stay current with all the latest teachings from Pastor Rick. You can do so at or search for Cross Reference Radio in your favorite podcast app store. That's all for today. Join Pastor Rick next time for more character studies right here on Cross Reference Radio.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-23 11:48:04 / 2022-12-23 11:57:04 / 9

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