I was struck by Mark 15:21 today when it said that, "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." Why were this man's sons listed? And by name? What were they thinking? Were they there to see their father forced into this horrible, yet honorable, task? Here is the story that flowed from my fingertips:
“Abba! Abba! Take us to the city so that we can see all of the festival preparations!”
“And the people! Take us to see the people, too, please?”
“Yes, Alexander. Yes, Rufus. We will go soon. We will walk into the chaos of the Passover celebration! Have you some sandals to wear, Rufus? It is a long journey from Cyrene to Jerusalem.”
“Yes, I have them, Father, and I will not complain.”
“Let us go then, my sons, you must follow me closely. Stay by my side.”
It seems we have been walking for days. My legs are shorter than my brother’s and my father’s, so I must jog a little now and then to keep up with them. My sandals and my legs, covered with dust and dirt, look the same—gray. My mouth is so dry that I can’t spit; I wish I could spit since my mouth feels gray too. I want to ask my Abba when we will get there, but then I stop myself because I remember that I gave my word. I will not complain, and asking about getting there might sound like complaining. I want my Abba to be proud of me—to think I am a man.
Abba said to follow closely. I have not taken my eyes off of him. But now, I am distracted by the high voices I hear in the distance and I look farther ahead. I smell good smells too. I am hungry, but I will not complain. I think we are almost there.
Finally, we enter the village! Bright colors, strange sounds, dirty animals, rushing people! So much activity! But I will stay close. I must not take my eyes off of my father. He knows where we are going and I don’t want to get separated from him.
I see some soldiers with frowns on their faces. Beside them is a man. I think he is sick. Or maybe hurt. His clothes seem dirty and stiff—do they have blood on them? He is carrying a very big piece of timber, but it seems too heavy for him. He looks very tired. I think he has been beaten—see those gashes on his back? He is trying to carry the wood across his chest like he is carrying a baby. I guess it would probably hurt him to carry it on his bleeding shoulders. The log is so heavy, he is just shuffling along. He is not wearing sandals.
I cannot look away. I am supposed to keep my eyes on my father, but I must look at this man. I want to help him! Without asking, I rush into the road where he travels. The mean soldiers stop me and roughly push me aside. My father steps out to grab me, but the biggest soldier grabs him instead!
Alexander yells “Abba!” and starts to cry, but I watch in silence as they make my father take the big timber from the hurting man. I want my father to be proud of me and I do not cry. Now my father is carrying the heavy load. He carries it on his shoulders because they are not bleeding. The soldiers grab the broken man and they pull him quickly along. But he cannot move quickly. His head is down and he is moving slowly and sadly. My father cannot move quickly either and he is scared that he has lost us. I call out to him, “We are here! We will follow you!” and both of them look up—my abba and the broken man. The broken man looks at me…he is crying… and now I cry.
There are so many people—throngs and throngs of people! Do they not see the broken man? Do they not see my Abba? I am still crying, but my brother is holding my hand. We make it to the top of the hill. It is ugly—this hill—it looks like a skull.
The soldiers take the log from my father and they lay it down beside the broken man who has fallen to the ground. Then, my father rushes back to us. I can smell his sweat as he pulls my brother and I into his scratchy cloak to shield us from the horror.
But I know what is happening. I can hear the hammer. They are pounding big nails into the broken man’s wrists. They are crucifying him. My father told me about crucifying—it is a punishment for criminals. But this broken man is not a criminal. I could tell this broken man was a good man because when he looked at me he cried.
My father is leading us away, but I look back. I see that the broken man has been put up on a cross—his wrists are still nailed to the log my father carried, and his feet are nailed to a post jutting from the ground. I know he is dying. The broken man is dying.
And I am sad. Somehow I know, my spirit has spoken, the broken man is dying for me.
“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”