Holy Week 2005


It had only been a chance remark, a throwaway line, when Simon had said that if Israel wanted a Messiah so badly, Jesus was as good as any.

He had bee delivering a consignment of Incense to the Temple and got into conversation with some of the clerks while the packets were being weighed and authority obtained for the payment from Joseph of ARAMATHEA who always took his time checking the bills. Then the hot topic of the day, Jesus of Galilee, came up. One of the older men said that you had to maintain discipline; all sorts of people were claiming to be prophets or the Messiah nowadays; it was bad for the Temple; and if things went wrong at the Temple there would be no defence against complete absorption by Rome. As long as there was a Temple there would be a buffer, in the form of Herod and the religious elite, between the Jews and the Romans.

Simon had said that after the free and easy atmosphere in Cyrene, Jerusalem was getting the whole Jesus situation out of perspective, it was on the verge of hysteria over nothing. And then he said Jesus could be the Messiah; and the room went silent.

Simon had seen the so-called 'Procession' on the previous day. Some of the followers of Jesus were shouting about "The Son of David" but it seemed good humoured and, as usual, the Temple spies had exaggerated the crowd numbers so that they would be kept on for more work; it was always best to keep everybody nervous.

Simon had been immediately drawn to Jesus because He had such an interesting face; He looked as if He could see everything but, at the same time, He was looking straight at you. No doubt He was holy, maybe a prophet but Simon did not see how He could threaten the Temple and the religious authorities, a serene-faced, quietly spoken Galilean riding on a donkey. In fact, one or two of His followers looked a bit sheepish; there was one fellow, holding the donkey at the end of the ride, who looked decidedly embarrassed, almost angry. This did not look like a coup.

The awkwardness was broken by Joseph's messenger coming back with the tally and the authorisation; but because of some clause in the contract and the long weekend, he would not be able to pick up the cash until the morning after the Sabbath. When it came to temple funds Joseph was a stickler, though  he was said to be charming in private, in his own quiet way.

Almost a week in Jerusalem and nothing to do. He had seen the sights before, when he had come with his father to learn his trade; things were so expensive during Passover; and they did not know how to cook. He longed for some fresh Mediterranean fish. The only place he really liked was a shady courtyard near the Temple where the manuscript dealers gathered. His father, as the purchaser of new scrolls for a group of synagogues in Cyrene, had introduced him there.

This time he had been asked to buy the LAMENTATIONS OF JEREMIAH - a curious little piece, it turned out - so he would study that to pass the time.

Simon could not sleep properly on Thursday night so he got up early and went for a walk. He heard a crowd shouting over near the Governor's Palace so he followed the noise. And then he saw Him, Jesus, beaten up and bleeding. Roman officials looked fed up with the whole thing and a couple of soldiers almost threw Jesus at the Temple Police. He stumbled and fell in front of Simon. That is when the disciplinarian from the Temple office saw him; gave him a nasty look; and talked to a senior official who signalled to a pair of Policemen who beckoned Simon to follow them.

He did not have any choice. They pointed at a rough, heavy, section of a log and told him to take it over to Jesus. His rash words had caught up with him.

The man he had casually called the Messiah was struggling to stand up; a beaten up peasant. But He still had that look Simon had seen during the procession; He looked as if He could see everything but, at the same time, He was looking straight at you.

Jesus tried to say something but the police were threatening and clearly in a hurry. The wood had an awkward girth but it was so short that it was easier for one to carry than two. Simon put Jesus in front but they had only walked a couple of steps when Jesus tripped up; there was so much blood coming from the wounds on His forehead that He could not see and move at the same time. Simon put Him behind and took all the weight so that Jesus could pretend to carry the log but He fell over again as soon as Simon moved off. And, anyway, Simon wanted to look at Jesus. So Simon let Jesus hold onto the log, walking a pace behind him and to the right; that way Simon could take most of the weight in his right arm and glance at Jesus whenever he wanted to.

"It is good to bear the burden when young ... to eat dust ... to turn your cheek to the assailant and be crammed with curses". The LAMENTATIONS echoed in Simon's head, in the face of Jesus, in the crowd; the Lament of the Prophet, the wickedness of the city, the yoke and the log fused in his brain. He was lost in the noise and the words within; his concentration lapsed and Jesus fell again.

This time Simon abandoned all pretence. He took Jesus under the arms and hauled Him to His feet; He was deadly light. Jesus looked straight at him through the blood, the sweat, the hair and the thorns; Simon could feel His eyes through everything; and then He raised His hand and put it on Simon's head; just for a moment before the Policemen kicked Simon so hard that he fell over. Without thinking, he picked Jesus up and carried Him to an empty pole, collected the wood and rushed back with it.

He could not bear the sound of the hammer. He went away and was sick. When he came back Jesus was on the Cross, still seeing the whole world and looking straight at Simon. "Is it nothing to you all who pass by?" He had never seen anything so sad.

He had been touched by Jesus. He knew it would change his life forever. He had been more right about the Messiah than he knew.

Prayer. Jesus, Saviour of the World, may we carry our Cross whenever You will it to fall upon our shoulder. May we, like Simon, show compassion to others when we are most under stress, struggling to Calvary. Even now, as You look down with compassion upon Your persecutors, we pray for Your help that we may be Your faithful companions to the end. And, as Simon was touched by Your love, may we feel Your touch most fully when we are preoccupied and confused. Softened by Your touch, may we walk quietly in the Way of the Cross, praying to the Father for holy strength and guided by the Holy Spirit that we may not fall. Amen.