Carrying the Cross
Exploring the story of Simon of Cyrene, and its themes of compassion, being part of a human family
by Jill Fuller
Suitable for Key Stage 2
To explore the story of Simon of Cyrene and its theme of compassion and being part of the human family.
Preparation and materials
- You will need two assembly leaders, one to introduce Simon and conclude the assembly, and the other to tell the story of this brief episode 'in role', through the eyes of Simon.
- Background information: read Mark 15.21-22 (below). Cyrene was a Greek city where many Jews lived. It was situated on the north coast of Africa, the capital of modern-day Libya. Perhaps Simon was living outside Jerusalem and was visiting the city for the Passover. He is named as the father of Rufus and Alexander. In his letter to the Romans, Paul sends greetings to 'Rufus, that outstanding worker in the Lord's service, and to his mother who has always treated me like a son' (Romans 16.13). Perhaps this was the same Rufus.
On the way they met a man named Simon, who was coming into the city from the country, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus' cross. (Simon was from Cyrene and was the father of Alexander and Rufus.) They took Jesus to a place called Golgotha, which means 'The Place of the Skull'. (Mark 15.21-22, GNB)
- Leader 1 recalls with the children the events that happened after Jesus shared the Passover (the Last Supper) with his disciples. Jesus is betrayed by Judas, is arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane and abandoned by the disciples. He faces trials before the chief priests, Pilate the Roman governor and King Herod. Finally Pilate presents Jesus to the crowd, asking them who they want freed - Jesus, or Barabbas, a murderer. They shout for the release of Barabbas. Pilate washes his hands and condemns Jesus to death on a cross. The soldiers torture and mock Jesus. They give him the cross to carry through the streets of Jerusalem to Golgotha, a hill outside the city, where the Romans put criminals to death by crucifixion.
Introduce Leader 2, 'Simon', who will tell the next part of the story.
- Simon tells his story. Remember to include:
The walk to Jerusalem, expecting to take part in the Passover.
The unexpected jostling of the crowds on the way to the crucifixion.
Seeing the exhausted young man falling under the weight of the cross.
The soldiers grabbing Simon and telling him to carry the cross.
Simon's fear and concern for his own sons, Rufus and Alexander. Would they get lost in the crowd?
The weight of the cross.
Arriving at Golgotha.
The effect of the event on himself and his sons.
- Leader 1 discusses with the children how Simon helped Jesus by carrying the cross when Jesus was weak and in need. Point out that Christians, and many people, think that part of being fully human is to be ready to help each other and 'share each other's burdens', to be a good neighbour.
Time for reflection
Think about Simon. He was in town with his family for a festival.
He didn't want to get caught up in the bad things that were happening.
But Simon saw someone who needed help …
And he gave it.
Think about the day ahead.
Will there be ways that you can help another person in need today?
'When I needed a neighbour' (Come and Praise, 65)