Simon spit out the taste of dust and breathed in the sticky summer day. He kept his face to the ground to help prevent the dirt from filtering through his nose and mouth anymore than it already had.
The streets of the city were surprisingly empty of people. However, loud noises assaulted his ears from up ahead, and he shaded his eyes to see what the commotion was all about. He saw a crowd of people shaking fists in anger and soldiers responding with threats of their own.
“What’s going on?” he asked a passerby.
“It’s Jesus, a new troublemaker. He’s been preaching around here for about three years now, but this time he went too far.”
“What’s he done?”
“He claims to be the Son of God, if you can imagine that, and he was arrested last night and taken to the governor. Pontius Pilate offered to release a prisoner for Passover giving the Jews a choice between a murderer and this Jesus, and the people chose to free Barabbas and crucify the prophet”
Simon’s son’s, Alexander and Rufus, had mentioned the teacher’s name before saying that he was the Messiah, but Simon was never convinced. “There’s always someone claiming to be the promised Savior. You boys shouldn’t be so quick to believe everything you hear.“
He shuffled toward the mob and pushed his way toward the front until he saw the condemned carrying a wooden cross. Jesus was covered in blood. It stained his forehead and cheeks, it matted his hair, and his back was slashed with open marks of scourging that caused the prophet to clench his teeth and cringe in pain with every movement.
The soldiers whipped him and yelled at him to keep moving, but it was obvious that he had no strength as he kept stumbling to his knees. Finally when the guards realized he needed help, and much to Simon’s chagrin, a soldier pushed him roughly toward Jesus.
“You there. Carry the cross for this man. And no complaining.”
Simon had no choice.
As he took the beam from Jesus and looked into his eyes, Simon saw a face of innocence and promise.
Who was this man? Could he possibly be the true Savior spoken of in scripture?
Simon followed Jesus as they climbed out of the city and made their way over the stony path toward Golgatha. Jesus never uttered a cry of pain or denounced his guilt.
At the top of the hill, Jesus and two others were nailed to their crosses and left to die, and Simon rejoined the crowd to watch. The afternoon lengthened until without warning the skies darkened as if the sun had just fallen from the heavens, and the earth rumbled and shook. People screamed and ran and fell as the wind blew and the day turned into night before their very eyes. It was a phenomenon that lasted several hours and which no one could explain.
After Jesus was dead and taken to the burial tomb, Simon remained near his abandoned cross, even sleeping there for the next few days as if waiting for something, although he couldn’t have said what if someone had asked him.
The morning of the third day, Simon was awakened by shouts of joy from several women. “He is risen. He is risen.”
Much confusion ensued with people running toward the place where the prophet had been entombed. As Simon watched, he heard a sound nearby and turned to see what appeared to be the dead Jesus standing before him with arms spread wide. Simon lost his balance and staggered backward in surprise.
It WAS Jesus - very much alive.
Simon fell to his knees. “You are truly the Son of God. Please forgive my disbelief.”
When he looked up, Jesus was gone.
What remained, however, was a conviction of heart. Simon knew that he would continue to carry the cross of Christ until his own death. His children had been right and wouldn’t they be astounded when he told them how he had held the Savior’s cross and received one in return.
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