How do you go with being interrupted? I’m not too keen on it personally, especially when I’m busy or working to a deadline. I tend to see interruptions as something of an enemy rather than a friend. But when I look at the life of Jesus one thing that stands out is the number of times something amazing came out of Him being interrupted. Now I know He lived in a different – and probably slower – time and culture. But I sometimes wonder whether we miss great things because we live such busy and uninterruptable lives.
Mark’s Gospel chapter 15 tells the account of Jesus’ torture and crucifixion. Right in the middle of this story is a verse that almost seems out of place – a verse that speaks about divine interruptions. It’s verse 21, “They forced a man coming in from the country, who was passing by, to carry Jesus’ cross. He was Simon, a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus.”
Simon was coming in from the country for Feast of Passover. There he was just minding his own business, on his way to a religious feast and completely unaware of the life-changing event that was about to take place.
Roman soldiers had the right to force citizens into compulsory service much like our police can do in co-opting your car if they need to. Jesus was already severely weakened by His torture and so the soldiers forced Simon to carry the cross for Jesus.
Simon was a Jewish Cyrenian from the north coast of Africa. He was so impacted by this event, and no doubt by what he witnessed in seeing Jesus crucified and all the ensuing events, that he became a Christian as a result. The next time we come across Simon he is listed as one of the leaders (a prophet and teacher) in the Antioch Church. In Acts 13:1 we read of Simon (or Simeon) whose nickname was Niger from the Latin word meaning “Black.” (This later became a derogatory term referring to black people but was here probably used as a term of endearment). Simon was a black man from Libya in Northern Africa.
It is likely that Simon and his family accepted Jesus as their Messiah, settled into the Jerusalem church and then scattered when persecution broke out.
Simon’s encounter with Jesus not only changed his life but also the life of his family. Mark makes special mention of Simon’s sons: He was “the father of Alexander and Rufus.” The next time we hear of Rufus he is one of the leaders in the church in Rome (Romans 16:13).
Tradition states that Rufus and Alexander became missionaries; the inclusion of their names in Mark’s gospel suggests that they were of some standing in the Early Christian community at Rome.
Simon was interrupted on his journey but his whole family became Christians as a result and were instrumental in the early development and growth of the Christian Church. There was probably nothing further from Simon’s mind as he walked into Jerusalem that day. He had probably never even heard of Jesus. And yet he just happened to be in the right place at the right time and was interrupted and had the entire course of his (and his family’s) life changed as a result.
I’m challenged by this story, as well as by the life of Jesus, to live an interruptible life as well as to live a life of awareness of God’s presence in every moment of every day. Who knows that the next time you’re interrupted could be a collision of destiny for you or someone else. Let’s be open to divine interruptions.