Matthew 27:32-44 (Part 2) – Encountering Jesus: Up Close & Personal

Posted: April 26, 2016 in Gospel of Matthew

Matthew 27:32-44 (Part 2)

Jesus is Led Away to Be Crucified

Have you ever drawn into something that you did not want to do but it ended up being something profound in your life? Maybe, you had to take your cousin to a prom. Maybe, you had to go on a double date with your geeky brother who just got a girl to go out with him for the first time. Maybe, you had to go to wedding that you didn’t want to go to, but end up meeting the love of your life at the reception. However, for me, it was less profound than that but I do remember a time when something dreaded ended up being something good. Back when I was in middle school, I was fairly popular at Lakeside Middle School in Anderson, SC. I was good kid but mischievous. I was a good student but was a class clown. Many of the teachers at the school knew me as just that, a good kid but fun loving to the point of be a disturbance at times. There was one time that my clownery got me in trouble for some reason. I can’t remember the exact reason but it ended me up in after school detention hall. I dreaded going because detention hall was usually that death march that people would laugh at you when they saw you go in the cafetorium (cafeteria and auditorium together) after school. I didn’t want to be there. In the afternoon, after school during the weeks leading up to a public presentation of a play, the drama club would practice on stage in the cafetorium. So, here I am sitting at one of the cafeteria tables being quiet as required. I hear the drama team rehearsing their play. I had several friends as it turned out among that team. So, I walk up to the stage and ask them if I can be a part of the play. As it turns out the drama teacher needed another actor for small speaking part so she grabbed me up. I already knew her so it was not like I was stranger to her. So, after school detention turned out to be a part in a play. And then in the spring play, I had a major role in that next play. So what seemed like a chore, something I had to do but did not want to do turned into something amazing. That is what I think of when I think of Simon of Cyrene in this passage that we take one more look at today.

 

Let’s read the passage together again this morning, Matthew 27:32-44:

 

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”). 34 There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. 35 When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 36 And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. 37 Above his head they placed the written charge against him: this is jesus, the king of the jews.

 

38 Two rebels were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” 41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42 “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

 

Here, we see Simon picked out of the crowd to do something nobody in their right mind would want to do voluntarily. He was from Cyrene. Based on what we know of Roman history and archaeology, Cyrene was a city in what is now the country of Libya. Settled by the Greeks in 630 B.C. and later infused with a significant Jewish population, Cyrene was the capital of the Roman district of Cyrenaica at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. By then, Cyrene was home to a large number of Greek-speaking, or Hellenistic, Jews. Simon of Cyrene is mentioned in Matthew, Mark and Luke. Matthew only records his name and place of origin (27:32), but Mark and Luke say that he was “on his way in from the country” (Luke 23:26). Mark, uncharacteristically, provides the most information about Simon, adding that he was “the father of Alexander and Rufus” (Mark 15:21), men obviously well known to Mark’s readers. It is speculated that the Rufus mentioned here may be the same man Paul greets in his letter to Rome, whom he calls “chosen in the Lord” and whose mother “has been a mother to me, too” (Romans 16:13). Paul’s knowledge of Rufus’s family indicates that at some point they lived further east. Thus, what we have here is a Jew in Jerusalem who had made the pilgrimage from northern Africa for Passover.

 

I could imagine his disdain for the duty he was called to perform. I could imagine that even after the Romans had forced Him into duty, that he probably made sure that Romans knew that he was not the criminal. I am a Jew here for Passover! Please don’t mistake me for this guy when we get to the hill. I do NOT feel like being crucified today! But apparently this encounter with Jesus was profound. Mark’s reference to him as the father of Alexander and Rufus makes one believe that Alexander and Rufus were major figures in the Chrisitan community in Rome. It means that Simon must have made quite an impression on these boys about this Jesus Christ. He must have told them that he carried Jesus’ crossbeam to Golgotha and he must have told them that he knew that Jesus was dead. And he must have told them that this same Jesus arose from the dead three days later, as Simon would have assuredly still been in Jerusalem when Jesus arose. Back in those days, a trip from Cyrene to Jerusalem would have taken over a week so when you got there you would have stayed awhile before returning home. Simon was drafted into service against his will but it ended up being the most profound thing that ever happened to him. He encountered the Son of God. This meeting led him likely to become a Christ follower who then raised two Christ following sons, who had great impact on the Roman enclave of Christians.

 

Maybe, you think that this Christianity thing is something that you don’t want to do right now. Maybe, you think that it has too many resrictions on the way you want to live your life. Maybe, you think that Christians are backwards and way too conservative to match your anything goes beliefs. You stay away from churches like they are the plague. You seen Christianity as outdated so you don’t want to know anything about it or go anywhere near it. But what can it hurt? Come over to LifeSong Church (or any church) and meet our people. We do not have horns and we will not beat you over the head with a Bible. We will welcome you with love and you will probably not be greeted more times than you will be greeted at LifeSong. We will invite you to just listen to the worship. You can even tap your feet to the beat of the drums and electic guitars, but doing that doesn’t make you commit to being a Christian. Listen to the words of the songs. Let them sink in. Then, listen to an anointed pastor preach God’s Word in a way that makes this Christianity thing make sense to your world in the 21st century. Then, we just let the Holy Spirit do the rest. If you would just try it out. You may not want to be here at first but there is just something about this church, the preaching, the people that draw you to Jesus Christ. It may just ended up being the most profound decision of your life. All we ask is that you give Jesus a chance. Encounter him on the road to the cross. It may end up being the most profound thing you have ever done in life. Encountering Jesus Christ in a real way. Not from a distance but up close. Not from the crowd but eye to eye. When we throw off all our humanistic beliefs and objections and encounter Him one on one, eye to eye, it will be the most important thing you have ever done. Come out of the crowd and encounter Jesus.

 

Amen and Amen.

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