In my research on Luke 23, I came across this wonderful sermon by Pastor Steven Cole, of Flagstaff, AZ. He tells of Simon of Cyrene through the eyes of his son, Rufus.
The Roman soldiers in our day got a sadistic kick out of making a condemned man carry his own cross to the site of his execution. It was just another way they rubbed in their superiority and dominance over the peoples they ruled. Just as the group passed by where Dad was, one of the prisoners, who obviously had already been badly beaten and abused, slumped to the ground under the load of his cross. The soldiers kicked him and cursed at him to get up, but it was obvious that this prisoner just didn’t have the strength to go another step under the load of that heavy cross. Before he knew what was happening, one of the soldiers shouted, “Hey, you!” He roughly grabbed Dad by the arm, dragged him toward the fallen prisoner, and barked, “You carry it for him!” The other soldiers laughed at Dad’s misfortune. Dad was stunned and protested, “But if I touch that cross, I’ll be defiled for the Passover.” That made the soldiers roar even louder! The guy who had grabbed Dad snarled, “It wasn’t a suggestion, buddy! It’s a command!” So Dad picked up the despised implement of death, hoisted it to his back, and fell in line behind the bloodied back of the prisoner who turned out, of course, to be Jesus. Since he was already involved and his celebration of the Passover was messed up anyway, Dad decided to stick around and witness the brutal proceedings. It was a day that marked him forever.
As Dad saw the sky grow dark and felt the earth shake, as he watched the way in which Jesus bore His suffering, how He treated His persecutors, what He said to the penitent thief hanging beside Him, Dad knew that this was no ordinary man. Dad heard Jesus cry out the words of Psalm 22:1, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Just before He died, Dad heard Him proclaim, “It is finished!” As Jesus breathed His last, Dad heard one of the centurions standing nearby exclaim, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” and Dad had the strange sense that he was right.
From that moment, Dad began to wonder if this Jesus could possibly have been the Messiah the prophet Isaiah (53:4-5) wrote about: “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell on Him, and by His scourging we are healed.” Later, Dad learned that the thick veil in the temple had been torn in two from top to bottom at that very moment, symbolizing what Jesus our Messiah had done in opening the way for us into God’s holy presence. Dad’s remaining questions were cleared up fifty days later at the Feast of Pentecost, as he heard Peter and the other apostles proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus. That day Dad, along with 3,000 others, put his faith in the resurrected Lord Jesus as his Messiah and Savior. Dad’s life and our lives, as his family, would never be the same after that day. Dad led us to put our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and we have devoted ourselves to serve Him. Later Dad shared with us some valuable lessons about salvation and service from his unusual experience that day, which I’d like to pass on to you. He taught us that …
Salvation is God’s doing and service means self-denial and sharing in Jesus’ suffering.