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The Cross and Transformation

The cross means many things to many people.

For Romans in Jesus’ day, it was a deterrent. Criminals would be crucified on crosses to communicate one message: Don’t mess with Rome.

Over time, the cross has found itself in a dichotomous existence. The cross became both a symbol of torture and a symbol of relief. It became both a symbol of intimidation and a symbol of hope.

Ultimately, it became the symbol of Christianity.

We all know and remember Jesus’ words to take up our own cross and follow him (Luke 9:23). The words intimate a radical call to discipleship that requires us to endure hardships that come our way.

What about when one is required to take up Jesus’ cross? What about the man mentioned in passing in the Gospels?

His name was Simon and he hailed from Cyrene.

Mark’s Gospel records the following: “Then [the soldiers] compelled a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus, as he was coming out of the country and passing by, to bear [Jesus’] cross” (Mark 15:21).

Here was a man who was minding his own business. We’re not too sure why he was coming into town on that fateful day. Maybe he was among the many pilgrims making the trip for the Passover. I’m quite sure he didn’t have carrying the cross of a “criminal” on the agenda.

Yet, he was forced to carry Jesus’ cross. He had no choice, but let’s not trivialize his willingness to do so. Had he heard the Lord’s instruction to go two miles if forced to walk one (See Matthew 5:41)? We’re not sure? We certainly know one thing:

The day Simon encountered the cross his life was profoundly transformed.

Simon’s name means “harkening, listening.” I believe Simon lived up to his name on that day as Jesus trudged up to Calvary.

In being forced to carry Jesus’ cross, he was listening.

He was listening to God’s call to become a disciple of Christ. Simon’s life was never the same.

The cross has that kind of effect.

I recall countless stories of believers whose lives were changed the day they encountered the cross.

In that moment, they realize the selfless nature of the work of the cross, contrasted by the selfishness that characterized their lifestyle. They realize the transformative power of what seems to be, on first glance, merely two planks of wood.

Early church tradition suggests that Simon’s sons, Rufus and Alexander, became missionaries.

Imagine them hearing their father’s story growing up. “I went into town to grab a few turtle doves and came back having carried the cross of the Son of God.” I’m quite sure that story never grew old.

One man’s encounter with the cross led to generational encounters with the message of the cross.

Never discount your ability to impact your family with the message of the cross.

The message can break generational curses.

It can reconcile broken family relationships.

The cross may serve as the bridge you need to close the chasm that has existed in your family for decades.

The cross means many things to many people, but there is one word that sums up its message: transformation.

Think about how the cross has transformed your life. I challenge you to share that story with someone you’ve never shared it with. In taking up your cross, don’t ever forget about his.

Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12:2

By John C. Richards, Jr.




5 comments

  1. WOW. thank you so much. this is very relevant to me as i have decided that it is wiser for me to stay away and distance myself from two family members who wont stop being awful to me. they contently reject me and have zero respect for me. they do not know the Lord and i have realised i have many people who love me for me. I commit my sister and my mother into the Lord’s hands and thank God i have many others i can count upon. i know i am loved and do not deserve the way my mother and sister treat me. Jesus reigns and my all is in His hands forever more.

  2. As tears fall from my eyes, I thank you for such a beautiful way of writing of Simon and the Cross.
    My Mom read her Bible nightly. Though when day light approached, she was constantly mad then happy It was a cross she seemed to carry for most of her 85 years. She got Ovarian Cancer. Where I was a survivor of it twice ,her and her Mom were not. She was given 5 months and it was more like 5 weeks. For years,as a Wife, Mom and Grandma, she was constantly in our prayers to accept Jesus and a few weeks before she passed away, she did. A Hospice Minister came by and asked her if she would like to accept Jesus as her Personal Savior and she said “Oh would I “. She repeated the Believers Prayer after him, and her face was one of pure joy and light. The Holy Spirit filled the room. She had both feet in both worlds and was not afraid. She died with the most beautiful “young ” look on her face. It was the most beautiful and comforting death I had ever seen. I will share “The Cross and Transformation”. I am so grateful I saw it happened with my Mom. God Bless you John

  3. Priscilla Hagan

    Beautiful message.
    This is a message that will never get old, a message that is timeless and relevant regardless of the changes the world goes through
    I thank you Jesus for dying for me, knowing all that I wil ever do, knowing how often I’ll betray you and yet setting your love on me.
    I am so grateful that the mercies of God endure forever. I pray that I’ll be able to take my cross and follow Jesus at all times and not grumble and complain but look at the example a sinless, perfect Jesus set by bearing the burdens I couldn’t bear.
    After all his yoke is easy and his burden is light


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