Good Friday Devotion
One dark moment in time changed my life forever. That day the desert sky over Jerusalem was filled with low, heavy, black clouds. I wasn’t expecting such a ominous day on my visit to the holy city of Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover.
My name is Simon. I’m from the city of Cyrene. I left my home three months ago in order to get to Jerusalem in time for the great feast—a pilgrimage of over 1,000 miles. I arrived just in time for the beginning of the festival.
That fateful morning, I went to the Temple to make my offering. As I was leaving the Temple, I was caught up in a mass of people who swept me down the street, like a tiny boat drug across the desert sands. The crowd was driving us towards the Pavement Stone, Gabbatha, the seat of the Pilate’s tribunal.
The name of Jesus, the Galilean, was being chanted in derision. I had heard him preach in the Temple the day before. He told stories about God’s love and forgiveness. He called Yahweh, Abba, Father, like the great rabbi’s of Judaism. He spoke about God in such intimate terms that his words touched my inner spirit. I wondered what Jesus could have done to make the crowd so angry.
The mass of humanity swelled, pushing us towards the Pavement Stone. The mob began to shout, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Not everyone was shouting the haunting words of death, but a strong chorus had overtaken the voice of the crowd. Then a loud cheer went out from the front of the crowd—as one we lunged forward. I knew what was going to happen next.
I turned my shoulders sideways and began to snake my way out of the crowd. When I got to the edge of the throng, I ran down a back alley to get ahead of the procession. I was sure I knew where they were taking Jesus—to Golgotha, the hill, the skull, the tomb of Adam, the place of the tree of death—so that’s where I went.
By the time I got to the base of the hill I could see the ocean of people rising in my direction like a threating storm. I found myself standing behind three women and a man. The two younger women and the man tried to console the third woman dressed in blue. The three spoke to her tenderly and called her mother Mary. I couldn’t see her face but I could hear her sobs.
Oddly, the crowd grew quieter as they approached where we were standing. I could see Jesus, in front, struggling under the weight of the cross he was carrying. The Roman soldiers whipped him as he stumbled up the hill. He winched at the strike of the whip. I heard him groan with every step. His body was raw flesh and blood. His head bent to the ground. His long hair, soaked dark, mingled with sweat and blood, covered his face.
And then, as if Jesus knew she was there, he turned his face to see Mary, his mother. He face was almost unrecognizable. Mary threw her anguished soul towards him. The man and the two women held her trembling body. Jesus fell to the ground, not from the weight of the cross, but from the burden of seeing his mother in such grief.
“Cyrene!” one of the Roman Soldiers yelled. “You! Black man.” The soldier was pointing his sword at me as he strode in my direction. I was paralyzed.
“Come here!” he shouted.
I wanted to run, but I couldn’t. Something held me in place. My eyes fell on Mother Mary. At that moment, she turned and looked into my soul.
“Help him. Please. Will you?”
Abba, Yahweh Father gave me the strength to let go of my fear and walk towards the soldier.
“Pick up his cross!” he yelled. “Or I’ll find one to nail you on.”
As I took a step towards Jesus, Mother Mary reached up and touched my hand. A wisp of her tear soaked hair blew across my arm. Her grief passed into my heart.
Jesus’ lifted his eyes from his mother to me. “Brother, would you carry my burden up the hill?” he whispered.
I knelt by his side. I slid my arm under the weight of his cross and lifted it off his broken shoulders. He collapsed. I struggled under the burden of man’s cruelty. I bent my back to rise to my feet. Jesus reached up his hand. I shifted the weight of the cross to one side of my back and reached under Jesus’ arm. His weight leaned into me as together we lifted him to his feet. He kissed my check and whispered into my ear, “Peace be with you.” He steadied himself. Looked up the hill. And started the final leg of journey towards his destiny. I followed this man of sorrows to his death. His cross now became my cross.