Jesus had encouraged his followers to “take up your cross and follow me” (Luke 9:23). He also said, “29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
It was customary for those to be crucified to be forced to carry the cross beam to the place of their execution. Jesus, exhausted from all he had endured, stumbled under the weight and fell. Simon from Cyrene helped Jesus by carrying his cross and taking his heavy yoke upon him.” It is possible that Simon from Cyrene became a believer, which is why Luke mentioned his name as those reading his gospel knew who he was talking about. If this is true Simon’s journey of faith began in the most extreme of circumstances.
Jesus died a humiliating death: reserved for hardened criminals and revolutionaries. While Jesus was no criminal, he was revolutionary. It was a revolution of peace and love. The two criminals crucified alongside Jesus deserved their fate, but while one joined in the mockery the other sensed something different about Jesus. Perhaps he had heard Jesus speak about the Kingdom of God, seen him caring for the poor and downtrodden. Maybe he had just heard of Jesus’ reputation. Whatever it was he realised that he really was in the presence of the King of the Jews who was about to claim his Kingdom.
“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
“Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Try repeating the words of the second criminal as a prayer. Place emphasis on different words each time you repeat it.
Listen to Jesus telling you: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Thank God that Jesus’ death has opened the way for us all to be with him. Thank God that we do not need to understand everything: that faith in Jesus is enough. Ask him to give you Jesus’ yoke, and to teach you how to follow him. Ask for Jesus’ help in carrying your cross today.