Friday, 6 April 2012

An Unexpected, Life-changing Encounter

Good Friday is a very special day. A day when we remember the heavy price our Saviour, Jesus Christ the Son of God, paid for our salvation and redemption. His precious blood is what cleanses us from our sins and gives us eternal life. Without the events of that day all humanity would be in hopeless misery and darkness now and for all eternity. Neither you nor I would be able to know God, love Him, and approach Him. Thank you, Lord for the cross and the great price you paid for my salvation.

Now, on that Friday long ago, an suspecting man was thrust into the greatest event in history. It was then that He encountered Someone who changed his life forever.
The Gospels tell briefly of that encounter, but in it one could read a lifetime story. 

'And they compel one Simon of Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross.' (Mark 15:21)
'And as they led him away, they laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus.' (Luke 23:26)

In his book, The First Easter, Peter Marshall imagines the scene of the procession to Calvary and that special encounter between Christ and Simon of Cyrene.   

It was an ugly situation as the procession went slowly along this way that will for ever be known as the Via Dolorosa [way of suffering or sorrow]. Meanwhile - Simon of Cyrene was approaching the city gate. 
He had just arrived in Judea, and was about to enter the Holy City, as a pilgrim for the festival. 
He had spent the night in some village just outside, and, rising early in the morning, had bathed and dressed himself carefully...with a tingling excitement because soon he would be in Jerusalem. The wonder of Jerusalem, that exiles had described, he would now see with his own eyes...the sounds of the Holy City...he would hear with his own ears. Yet He tried to keep calm, and as he set out on the short walk that lay between him and the city, he was very thoughtful. 

He walked along the winding path that sometimes ran through the fields...Sometimes along narrow roads between hedges where there was the fragrance of pomegranate trees and honeysuckle... Sometimes along the torturous course of the dried-up river bed where the earth was cracked with the heat of the sun.
       Sometimes it wound up the jagged hillside to twist down among the giant boulders and huge rocks behind which many a robber might hide. He walked along beside the tall rushes, where he frightened conveys of birds that flew wheeling, diving... 
And he walked through the divided crops, ripening in the sunshine. 
He could hear the sheep bleating on the inhospitable hillside, while the morning sun climbed higher and chased away the mists that lay in the hollows, trailing down into the ravines like tulle scarves.  
As he walked along, he was thinking of the temple and its glories, the history of his people and the worship of his fathers... 
Already he could see ahead of him the domes of the temple gleaming gold in the sunshine, could hear the pigeons that had their nest in the cupolas and gables, and he thought of his own city looking from her height over the blue waters of the Mediterranean. 
Then as he neared the city gate he began to hear shouting that grew louder and louder. 
There seemed to Simon to be a sort of chant running through the noise... 
        a refrain that men's voices made clearer and clear er until he thought he could recognise the word 
They met right at the city gate ... Simon of Cyrene and the crowd. He found that the procession was headed by some Roman soldiers; he would recognise them anywhere... 
          the insignia on their shields... 
       and their uniforms... 
He could tell a legionnaire when he saw one.  
He had little time to gather impressions, and as for asking questions, that was impossible. He could not make himself heard in all the rabble. 
The noise and confusion with its sinister and malice made Simon shudder.  
Simon was aware of two moving walls of Roman steel. There was something strange about it all but, before he could understand it, Simon was caught up in it - sucked into the procession, and swept out through the gate again. 
Simon was excited, afraid...He was puzzled and ill at ease. He scanned face after face quickly, looking for some light of pity... 
          of friendliness, 
                 of welcome... 
But he found none. 
He felt the drama of the situation, the cruelty of it...And its horror crept over him like a clammy mist - and he shivered.  
He was captured by the procession, stumbling along, tightly wedged in the very heart of the crowd. 
Then he noticed that there were three men who staggered under the weight of crosses of rough, heavy wood on which these unfortunates were going to die.  
Each man was bent beneath the burden he carried, and perspiration moistened his drawn face. 
One of them was strangely appealing, His face was arresting. Simon felt his gaze returning again and again to that one face. He noticed that blood was trickling down from wounds in the brow. 
On His face there was a twig of long-thorned brier, twisted around in the shape of a crown and pushed down cruelly on His head.  
Simon watched with beating heart as they shuffled along, fascinated by the look in those eyes. 
He could see nothing else. Everything was forgotten, even why he had come to Jerusalem. This public execution had driven everything else from his mind. 
Forgotten for the moment were the temple and its services, 
         messages he brought from friends far away... 
               things he had been asked to get... 
Everything was forgotten as he watched this Man carrying the cross.  
And then He looked up! His eyes almost blinded by the blood that trickled down from under that grotesque crown that was on his head... 
Why didn't somebody wipe His eyes? 
And as Simon looked at Him, He looked at Simon...And the eyes of the two ... met! 
How did Christ know what was in Simon's heart?What was it that made Him smile, a slow, sad smile that seemed to still Simon's wildly beating heart and give him courage? 

The look that passed between them Simon never forgot as long as he lived, for no man can look at Jesus of Nazareth and remain the same. (my emphasis)
As these two looked at each other, the Man with the cross stumbled, and the soldiers, moved more by impatience than pity, seeing that the Nazarene was almost too exhausted to carry the cross any further, laid hands on Simon and conscripted him to carry it.
He was the nearest man. 
He was strong.
His shoulders were broad!
Simon's heart almost stopped beating; he tried to speak, but no words came.
A few minutes before, he had been a lonely pilgrim quietly approaching the Holy City. And now, there he was in the midst of a procession of howling men and women, walking between two moving walls of Roman steel, and carrying on his shoulder a cross on which someone was going to die!

The look of gratitude and love that flashed from the eyes of Jesus as Simon lifted the load from those tired, bleeding shoulders did something to the man from Cyrene, and in an instant life was changed. (my emphasis)

Simon never could explain it afterwards - how it happened! 

There are moments of spiritual insight that defy the limits of syntax and grammar. 
There are some things too deep for words.
But all at once he saw the meaning of pain...
          understood the significance of suffering...
The meaning of prayer was unveiled...
          and the message of the Scriptures.
He saw prophecy take form and live before him. 
He remembered words of the psalmist and the prophets of old, words that until now had been without sense of meaning, but now... he saw ... and understood. (my emphasis)

Yes, the one who meets Jesus of Nazareth will never be the same again. No-one can remain neutral. If you haven't yet had such a personal encounter with Jesus Christ, ask Him now. He is near and always ready to heal and forgive. If you have had that wonderful encounter already, take a moment to thank Him for His sacrifice and ask Him to refresh that relationship. This is what I pray. Amen.

God Bless, 
Peter Marshall, The First Easter, (ed.) Catherine Marshall, London: Hodder and Staughton, 1959, pp. 54-59 


Shaz in Oz.CalligraphyCards said...

ah Sarah this is so very very beautiful love it, thank you so very much for sharing such a picture painted with words - yet only the LORD's Spirit can do such a work in (wo)man's heart, and through Jesus we have the victory even our faith in Him alone, not by works but by faith! we can know Him and we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is - look at this blog great time be had here:
Love to all your family Shaz.x

Sarah said...

I'm glad it has blessed you as it did me. Yes, only the Holy Spirit can make us see things like that.
I wish you all the best. I've has a quick look at 'little birdie blessings'. It looks really interesting and very pretty, too.

Love in Him,

Maddy said...

Dearest Sarah,

This was such a beautiful and touching encounter to read. And oh, how true the words "no man can look at Jesus of Nazareth and remain the same".
Praise the holy name of Jesus, He has risen and is alive. Though so many, many centuries have passed... though so much has been forgotten - and so very much has happened - not only has the Word of the Lord prevailed and lived through all of the centuries, but the Lord Jesus is alive and still, still, we cannot look upon Him and remain the same!
Praise His name.
Much love,

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