“Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles.”Matthew 5:41
Jesus, who came to set people free, seemed to preach the opposite. His words about going the extra mile evoked images of oppressive Roman legions putting people to work. Historically, the ancient Persians compelled their subjects to serve as messengers for their postal system. The Greek verb aggareuó (“to impress,” “compel”) comes from the Persian nouns aggareus (“courier”) and iggerah (“a letter”). Over time, the verb signified any kind of labor forced upon natives by ruling powers.
Simon of Cyrene
The Romans forced a bystander, Simon of Cyrene, to carry Christ’s cross on the way to Calvary.
As they were going out, they met a Cyrenian named Simon; this man they pressed into service to carry his cross.Matthew 27:32
They pressed into service a passer-by, Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.Mark 15:21
As they led him away they took hold of a certain Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country; and after laying the cross on him, they made him carry it behind Jesus.Luke 23:26
Since Matthew and Mark use the verb aggareuó, Simon evidently bore the cross against his will. However, sharing Christ’s burden transformed him through grace. Mark identifies Simon as the father of Alexander and Rufus, who, according to some historians, became followers of Jesus. The mystic Anne Catherine Emmerich also writes in her “Dolorous Passion” that Simon’s sons became disciples.
Yoked With Christ
In a world of grave injustices, Jesus frees people, first and foremost, from within. Resentment need not arise when we offer our services to him. Like Simon of Cyrene, we may find ourselves yoked with Christ, who is “meek and humble of heart” and gives us “rest” (Matthew 11:29).
Forced to carry Christ’s cross by a soldier,
Simon walked with God shoulder to shoulder.
William Barclay, Daily Study Bible, Matthew 5:1-48.