DEVOTIONS AND SERMONS

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Chosen
 

Matthew 27:27-33
27 Then the governor's soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him.
28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him,
29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. "Hail, king of the Jews!" they said.
30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again.
31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.
32 As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross.
33 They came to a place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull).


Here we see Jesus being tortured and the Bible details all the way he was tortured and finally he's led away to be crucified. v32 says as they going on the way they met a man from Cyrene named Simon and they forced him to carry the cross. Who Simon of Cyrene is, is a mystery. Cyrene is a place in northern Africa. It is in modern day Libya, in Tripoli. So at that time there was a synagogue, as it says in Acts 6, in Cyrene.

The Jews probably had a regular habit of coming to Jerusalem for the Passover. So Simon had probably come all the way from Cyrene just for Passover and had probably decided to stay a few days. So he was in the crowd. He had no intention of doing anything with Jesus or the cross or the crucifixion or anything. He was just a spectator. The Roman soldiers just pulled him and forced him to carry the cross of Jesus.

1. Chosen to carry the cross

Simon was chosen to carry the cross. He didn't want to, but he was chosen to carry the cross. God has chosen us, the disciples to carry the cross. Now, do we want to carry the cross? Would you want to share the intensity of the persecution and torture that he went through, would you want to be there in his place, carrying the cross? Simon didn't want to. But he was chosen to carry the cross.

Luke 9:23
Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

As disciples of Jesus the call is very simple - we've got to be willing to carry the cross. Maybe we feel like Simon of Cyrene - maybe we don't want to, maybe we feel forced to but as disciples we must carry the cross. Carrying the cross is not very popular is it? No one wants to take the pain. Who likes suffering? None of us. Who wants to mourn? None of us.

We want our lives to be easy. We want our life to be happy. We always want to be joyful. We want life to be a party, to enjoy ourselves, we want to enjoy the benefits of this life, and we want to enjoy the pleasures of this life. Nobody wants or desires the cross. Carrying the cross is very unpopular. Do you know when we love to carry the cross?

Probably when we just got baptized. At that time we are willing to do anything for Christ because we are so grateful, so thankful. What happens as we get older, we don't want the cross. Isn't that true? As we get older the cross becomes burdensome. As we get older we're eager to put down the cross rather than picking it up. Simon of Cyrene had the honor of carrying the cross.

As we get older the cross can become less and less significant in our lives. As disciples we should always go back to the cross because that's where we need to get our inspiration, that is what we're here for. So we are chosen just like Simon of Cyrene was chosen to carry the cross even though he was not willing.

2. Chosen to see the grace of God

Luke 23:26-34
26 As they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.
27 A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him.
28 Jesus turned and said to them, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children.
29 For the time will come when you will say, 'Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!'
30 Then "'they will say to the mountains, "Fall on us!" and to the hills, "Cover us!"'
31 For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?"
32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed.
33 When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals--one on his right, the other on his left.
34 Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.


Here it says Simon came from Cyrene, from the countryside and he was forced to carry Jesus' cross. He saw that as they were going, a lot of people including women and children were mourning and wailing for Jesus. What did Jesus tell these women? "Daughters of Jerusalem do not weep for me. Weep for yourselves and for your children."

You've got to understand it's so easy for Jesus to invite this kind of sympathy because he was in such a bad shape. But Jesus was not into self-pity here. Jesus was saying don't cry for me, I don't need your sympathy, I don't need pity. You need to worry about your families. Jesus was not invoking any pity for himself. His voice holds no self pity. In the end he says "Father forgive them because they don't know what they're doing".

That's what we've got to learn: to understand the grace of God from the cross. Jesus forgave the men that hurt him. Simon of Cyrene was probably the only one who heard these words "Father forgive them for they don't know what they are doing". Even though Simon was reluctantly carrying the cross, he was watching what Jesus was saying, hearing his words, seeing how he was bearing the pain and probably as he was walking his life changed. As Simon carried the cross he understood Jesus.

He saw the grace of Jesus. He saw that Jesus was not there to pay back the people who had hurt him but was there to forgive those who hurt him. God calls us and chooses us to understand the grace of God. We've been blessed by his grace. None of us stand a chance before God because he has forgiven us much.

We remember the incident where the woman caught on adultery was brought to Jesus. She was caught in adultery - she was in absolute sin. Everybody wanted to stone her because she had committed adultery and she deserved to die. Some people didn't know what was happening but they must have picked up stones like everybody else. All wanted to throw stones at the woman.

What did Jesus say? If any of you have not sinned let them be the first one to throw the stone. When you understand the grace of God the stones will automatically drop. And that's what those men did - they dropped their stones and walked back because they were convicted. We should be so grateful for our salvation that we are quick to forgive even when it is hard to forgive.

3. Chosen to change the world

Mark 15:21
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.

Here the Bible talks about Simon being a father. And its amazing that Mark when he wrote this account of Jesus in this gospel, mentions the names of the sons of Simon. Probably the church that would read this account knew who Alexander and Rufus were and that's why he mentioned their names.

Romans 16:13
Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too.

Here it talks about Rufus who is chosen in the Lord and also his mother who has been a mother to Paul who wrote the book. It may or may not be the same Rufus but one thing we understand it's very likely that Simon, his two sons, his wife all became disciples of Jesus. And probably Simon is the one who shared the story of Jesus saying these words at the cross "Father forgive them..." to the entire early church.

He must have told the church how he shared the cross with Jesus, what experience he had and how that walk with Jesus to Golgotha changed his life. Simon spread the message of Jesus and what impact Jesus had on his life to the early church and to all the people who studied the Bible.

Acts 11:19-21
19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews.
20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus.
21 The Lord's hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.


After the persecution broke out, the disciples went out of Jerusalem, were scattered and preached the word wherever they went. They went all the way to Antioch. The Bible says some of them, men from Cyprus and Cyrene went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also telling them the good news about the Lord and the Lord's hand was with them and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. So the men of Cyrene went up to Antioch and for the first time the Greeks heard the message through Cyreneians and who taught the men of Cyrene the Bible? Probably Simon of Cyrene who taught them, encouraged them "Go preach the word".

The reason we are chosen is not just to change our lives or to carry the cross - we are here to change the world. God chose Simon to change the world. Our mission is still the same. It is still what Jesus wants to do, his dream is still to seek and save the lost, and that all men can come to know the truth. Our mission has not changed. We, as disciples, are still chosen, every one of us, to impact the world around us.