Both Jesus and Dismas are now walking towards the place of dying. They carry their own crosses, heavy, violent pieces of wood, splinters biting with every stumble and digging into fresh wounds.
The Cross is just one load to carry; Jesus also carries rejection, fear, public humiliation, the memories of betrayal, the faces of those who weep as he walks. And bound up with all this is the weight of the world, a burden of brokenness and ancient transgressions. He carries all this – it’s no wonder he stumbles.
So the Romans grab some random passer-by to get Jesus up the hill and Simon Cyrene is press-ganged into history. He takes up the Cross, sharing the burden; you could probably a clever theological point about that.
Well, you could, but watch Simon help Jesus to his feet. In the face of betrayal and abandonment and condemnation, for a few metres at least, Jesus isn’t alone. The disciples have disappeared, there’s a stranger carrying the Cross, but the final walk is no longer taken alone; even the messiest mercy is still grace.
Not every burden is a tragic public parade. There are hidden epidemics all around us – epidemics of loneliness, of poverty, of despair, depression, anxiety. People carry these burdens alone, suffering in silence because of embarrassment or pride. That’s when we’re pulled into service, called to bring grace and hope and love into situations that appear to be hopeless. Sometimes that means bending down and taking up a cross, helping another to bear the load and to show they’re not alone, that they’re not abandoned.
Simon wanted to mind his own business, but his nice quiet life intersected with the infinite; I guess that happens to us more than we realise. And step by step the walk goes on. The destination, drawing everything towards it by an ominous gravity, draws into view, anticipating the liminality of this particular lynching.
But there’s one more stop to make on the road, one more conversation to be had, as from the crowd comes the sound of weeping…
The other posts in this series can be found here.