RUFUS OF CYRENE – SON OF SIMON – EYE WITNESS TO CRUCIFIXION
It was a day much like today when we arrived in the city of Jerusalem for the Passover. It was a journey that would change our lives and those of many others for centuries to come. Even though we were young lads, father felt it was the right time to join him in this annual celebration. We didn’t yet posess the great physical strength of men. We’d been educaed at the Jewish school and were well taught in all the laws of the Talmud. Like most young men of our age, we thought we knew everything. Father reminded us that we still had many lessons ahead. The journey from Cyrene, Lybia spanned over seven hundred miles. We would need to set out a good month in advance in order to make it in time. As you know, long family journeys can eventually get on your nerves. Not only was it difficult traveling by land, but there were the usual problems of stopping to mend a broken wheel or getting additional water for the mules and ourselves – not to mention sharing close quarters with each other for a long time.
When we arrived, we found a city full of people from all areas of the country. I was amazed at the diversity of the people – the many languages – the food. Something unusual was happening. Three men were being led out of the city to be executed. Part of their punishment was to carry the weight of the instrument which would eventually kill them. This was a part of life we’d never seen. We knew about Roman oppression and their brutal customs, but this was almost too much. One of the men wore a crown woven with thorns which pierced through his skin. He was dressed in a seamless robe of crimson. We later discovered that he claimed to be the King of the Jews and that is why they were executing him.
We learned from those following the parade, that He’d been arrested, tried, tortured, set before both Jewish and Roman courts, was sentenced, denied, betrayed and abandoned by those he called friends. This all happened within hours. Now he was on his way to die.
There was something different about this mocked, smitten, beaten and bloody king. In spite of wounds resulting from severe scourging, he carried his cross upon his tortured body. His hair was matted with blood mixed with spit from the taunting crowd. His eyes were swollen, his face bruised and flesh hung from his open wounds He was covered with pesky insects who feasted on him. He was a shell of a man, but he continued on without complaint, until he could no longer carry the weight of his cross. A Roman guard came to the crowd. His eyes landed on Alexander and me, but moved swiftly to our father. There was no questioning Roman soldiers. My father obeyed, but I think he would have taken the task upon himself anyway. My brother and I followed the crowd and watched our father carry the burden of the willing lamb being led to the slaughter.
What followed was a gruesome death. The crowd that once praised and honored Jesus, had now deserted him. They scattered as the skies opened and tears from Jehovah poured down . The earth shook and we later learned that the heavy temple curtain and been torn in two. A soldier pierced the side of the dead man and his body was carried off to be buried. The experience didn’t end there. Our father, Simon was saturated with the blood from the cross he carried to Golgotha. We encouraged him to come with us and change into clean clothing, but he didn’t seem to mind being covered in the blood of Jesus.
My brother, Alexander, our father and I returned to Cyrene. The events following the death of Jesus would demonstrate that He’d conquered death. He came back to life on the third day. It was a promise He fulfilled to perfection. When we learned of this, my brother and I became men. We saw the unselfish compassion of one man who loved the world so much, He took on the pain we should’ve suffered. His death provided the necessary payment for our redemption. We went home with more than one lesson that day. We would share that good news with our countrymen and the word would spread like wildfire. Our sins are forgiven, because of the lamb who has been slain for our iniquities. Hosanna to the King of the Jews.