March 27th 2010

Sons See Father Carry The Cross

“A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross”

Mark 15:21 (NIV) 

Who were Alexander and Rufus? 

The gospel writer, Mark, does not explain much about them. The implication is that his readers would know who they were. The text tells us they were the sons of Simon of Cyrene, who was forced to carry the cross of Christ. Had they been there and witnessed their dad help their future Lord?  Were Alexander and Rufus there when they crucified our Lord? Was this their story that they gave to Mark as he wrote his account of the gospel? 

Interestingly, archaeologists have found in the Kidron Valley in Jerusalem the first century remains of someone called Alexander of Cyrene, the son of Simon. Some suggest this is the same Alexander that we find in Mark. 

Jesus, who had told his disciples to bear their cross, became too weak to carry his own cross. Jesus was human just like you and me. 

He had been scourged. A whip had been made of several leather straps, and encrusted onto the end of them were sharp objects, such as nails and broken rocks. The aim was to inflict as much pain as possible by cutting through the flesh to the bone of the victim. Jesus was whipped repeatedly, and, staggering, he began to carry the cross. He, however, had been so weakened by the scourging that he could barely continue. To move things along someone else had to bear the burden for him. The Roman soldiers forced Simon, who, presumably, had come to Jerusalem for the Passover observances, to carry the cross of Christ. 

All kinds of thoughts come to mind for us today. When we have helped someone through difficult times, it is as if we helped Jesus carry the cross. “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40), says Jesus. “Carry each other’s burdens”, said Paul, “and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). Jesus also helps us bear our cross. He makes light work out of our heavy burdens. 

Mark, along with Alexander and Rufus, remembered the suffering and death of Jesus, who is the Saviour of the world. Each time we take the bread and the wine of the Lord’s Supper, we do too. “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). 


Beautiful Saviour, thank you for suffering for us. Thank you for your sacrifice on our behalf. Help me to help others in their time of need, to help them carry their burdens.


Study by James Henderson

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