“Black folk claim Simon with reference not to geography, but to identity. Simon’s blackness is truth-telling and empowering.”
– Rev. Jeania Ree V. Moore, Director of Civil and Human Rights at the General Board of Church and Society for The United Methodist Church
The story of Simon the Cyrene is the story of a bystander, who has no power, that gets put in the middle of another’s story; he was just a man watching Jesus carry the cross on the way to Calvary.
It is the honest telling of the story of the those who are less powerful being used as a surrogate in some cosmic game of redemption; the Romans called him out and compelled him to carry the cross. Why him? This is the question of proxy nations, mammies, and foot soldiers in wars that will not benefit the families of those who, disproportionately, died.
It turns out that there is something that is worse than being considered a political and theological scapegoat. It is being a surrogate for the goat. Simon has no idea of the significance of the drama within which he was thrust. All he knew was:
“he was conscripted to be a spectacle”
Therein lies the story of people who become tropes for religious issues that have nothing to do with them. Church doctrines and political policies are never simply about the truth without them also being about power and personalities. Age to age, Simons have carried the cross with Jesus on the way to redemption for the church and the world.
The first women preachers, slaves who contended that the gospel was for them, LGBTQIA+ Christians who bear votes about their inclusion within a church that says “whosoever will let them come” are all continuing examples of people who were compelled to move from bystanders to surrogates.
In fact, the surrogate does not die. The crossbeam of the cross is taken from his shoulder because in the end, it is collateral suffering that is not of his own making. Rather, Jesus will let Simon bear the burden, but not suffer the cost of the crime of simply being himself.
To the Simons, this passage is comforting. It does not lie and say there is no burden. But, it declares that the burden will be lifted by a God who will not let the religious authorities win or the unjust society reign. Simon is not the scapegoat. He is not the reason for the drama. He is not guilty. They ain’t nothing wrong with him. The crowd is as wrong about Simon then as they are about all the Simons since then.
The question of this season is how are our whole lives being used in relation to Simon? Shouldn’t someone, anyone, and everyone have run from the crowd and said “NO.” Aha, but they had the privilege of cowardice. Their skin was not brown!
by Floyd Thompkins, Jr.