Carrying our Cross | An Austrian Mountaineer Story for Good Friday

Simon the Cyrene possibly had one of the greatest privileges a person has ever had—to momentarily carry Jesus’ burden as He climbed the hill to lay down willingly on the cross. A part of maturing as a disciple of Jesus is to realize that carrying others’ burdens is a joyful privilege. Here’s why.

And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. (Mark 15:21)

Take in the Whole Scene and Grasp the Gravity and Meaning of Good Friday & the Crucifixion

The scene of the crucifixion is meant to touch our deepest emotions. This was God the Father’s Son who was mocked, flogged, and led away to be executed on a hill outside of Jerusalem. And he silently bore our burden of sin so that we could have the choice between Heaven and Hell. Imagine how Mary must have felt. She raised this boy, Jesus. She saw him play with wooden toys. She watched him run around in the neighborhood with his siblings in all the joy of childhood. She watched him grow up into a man who would be a Shepherd after God’s heart (Jer. 3:15). Now, Jesus was mocked, spat upon, beaten violently, and hammered to a wooden cross. She watched him in agony on that cross as he bore the sins of the world. He was emotionally distraught and physically destroyed. The greatest extreme was to feel spiritually abandoned as the Father turned his back on him as he became sin on our behalf:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” (Galatians 3:13)

I Wish I Could have had Simon of Cyrene’s Job

One man that day was given the greatest honor a human could ever have. For a few hundred meters of that climb up the hill, Simon of Cyrene had the privilege of carrying Jesus’ heavy burdensome cross. For even just a moment, Simon got to help Jesus and ease his suffering. If there is one job I wish I could have had, it is that one. Jesus has done so much for me. All that he went through on Good Friday, was for me. And for you. It would have been the greatest joy and privilege imaginable to have been offered the opportunity to carry Jesus’ burden that day.

When we see people around us suffering and carrying heavy burdens of sin and emotional disorientation, take pause and see this as an opportunity to pick up your cross:

If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? (Luke 9:24-25)

Daily it seems we have opportunities to pick up our cross and serve others. It is not a burden to carry someone else’s burden. It is a privilege.

A “Simon the Cyrene” Mountaineer in the Austrian Alps

View from a Klettersteig near Bad Goisern, Austria

This week I was in the Austrian Alps leading a conference for Scripture Union with staff from Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Germany, Greece, Latvia, Hungary, Austria, Serbia, and Slovakia. One afternoon we took the group out for a type of rock climb the Austrians call a “Klettersteig“. It is a cabled climb up with plenty of exposure in some places as you climb straight up a rock face hundreds of feet above the ground. One of the women in our group, Suzanne, from Hungary was a brave soul and stepped way out of her comfort zone to attempt the climb. As she climbed she reached a nearly impassable section and started to cry out for help. I was beneath her so I climbed up quickly to a hand hold right below her foot, and was able to chock my knee in a position so that she could stand on my leg and push up to the next hold. What a privilege it was to be there for her in her moment of desperation. It is a joy to carry one another’s burdens.

As Suzanne climbed further she came to the most difficult section of the climb. She strummed up the courage to start climbing but soon got into a vulnerable position where her arms could not keep up her strength to hold on in her precarious hold. She started to panic. At this point, my friend Hans, who is an Austrian mountaineer and the director of Scripture Union Austria, scrambled down the face like a mountain goat with suction cups on his hands and quickly set up right above her. Lowering a sling of webbing down we connected it to her harness. Then with lots of encouragement and gentle patience, we coaxed Suzanne to try to reach for the next hold. Hans was really a model of Simon of Cyrene to me that day… he literally pulled her up that face, carrying Suzanne’s burden with a confident and gracious smile.

Action-Reflection

  • Read through Mark 15 and recount all of the sights, smells, sounds, emotions, and actions taking place during this historic day we now call Good Friday (the day that Jesus was Crucified)
  • Consider the privilege that Simon the Cyrene had to carry Jesus’ cross. Imagine you being the one to have that privilege. How would that make you feel?
  • Look for an opportunity this week to carry someone’s burden. How is there more joy in looking at burden-sharing as a privilege rather than an obligation. What would it take for you to develop a habit of joyful burden-sharing?
  • Next time you are leading a group of people in the outdoors, take note of the setting, and the timing of moments when people are stressed or needing help. Use this as an opportunity to talk about Simon the Cyrene, and the joy it is for Believers to share burdens in community.
  • Join the conversation by commenting below!

About the Author | Ashley Denton

Ashley and his wife Becky their kids live in Fort Collins, CO. He is Vice President of Staff Development & Strategic Partnerships at Nexus International and is the founder of Wilderness Ministry Institute. He is the author of Christian Outdoor Leadership: Theology, Theory, and Practice, and is a professor of outdoor leadership at Denver Theological Seminary. He spends time helping younger leaders in over 30 countries develop effective youth & student ministries that incorporate effective outdoor adventure in their overall strategy.