The Way of the Cross: Helped (Mark 15:21)

As we prepare for Easter, past and present Pepperdiners contribute reflections on Jesus’ journey to the cross. Today’s is from Jay Milbrandt, a School of Law alumnus and current Director of Pepperdine’s Global Justice Program.

Sieger Köder, "Unison"

Mark 15:21 Jesus Bears the Cross

A few years ago, I worked on an anti–human-trafficking project in Southeast Asia along with a young American woman. Like me, she had lived in relative comfort and neither of us had experienced much pain in our lives—certainly not in comparison to the trafficking victims in our care. This young woman sought out a cause that was not her own, victims she did not know, and a place with which she was unfamiliar because she believed that the lack of pain in her own life gave her the capacity to take on the pain of others. She felt that she had unused strength and she could yoke up with these victims to bear part of their burden.

In Mark 15:21, we learn of a man named Simon from Cyrene. On his way from the countryside, he merely passes by the procession of soldiers leading Jesus to the place for crucifixion. Simon has no relation to the matter — this is not his cause, this is not his community, and this is not his home. We don’t know that he even knows of Jesus — to him, Jesus may be just another stranger. Yet, the soldiers force him to carry Jesus’ cross. He bears part of Jesus’ burden.

We encounter a mutual exchange in human suffering. Like this young woman and myself, there are those of us who are empowered and well resourced, living far away from human suffering. Yet, we live in a broken world of oppression and despair.

Sometimes we happen to be merely passing by when we come upon the cross of another in pain. For those of us who have not experienced immense suffering, we can offer ourselves. We can offer our capacity to share their burden. We can take up their cross.

In turn, those acquainted with suffering offer us a great gift. They remind us to appreciate what we have received and not to take such privilege for granted.

For my colleague and I in Asia, when we bore the burden of others, we felt more alive than ever before. Our good fortune of comfort had a purpose — to ease the pain of another.

Next time you find yourself as a “passerby,” ask whether there might be a cross you can bear.


Jay Milbrandt, Global Justice director at Pepperdine Law, is an author, lawyer, and blogger on “Global Justice, Adventure, and Creativity.” His first book, Go + Do, will be released by Tyndale this Spring. Jay is currently blogging about his travel and work with students in Korea and Thailand. I am always excited for the going and doing Jay’s up to. You can try to keep up with him on Twitter, as well.

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