Mark’s gospel tells us of Simon of Cyrene who was compelled to carry the cross (horizontal beam) of Jesus.
Who was this man and who are Alexander and Rufus (Mark 15:21)?
Simon is a common Hebrew name. This Simon of Cyrene is the man the Romans conscripted to carry the cross of Jesus. This is an ironic event mentioned in all three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). What makes this so ironic is that the other Simon, the one called Peter, should have been the one carrying the cross for Jesus. After all, he had pledged to never forsake the Lord. Though others might forsake Him, Simon Peter insisted that he would not.
The Romans could compel or conscript people to do all kind of things. This Roman practice lies behind Jesus’ call for His followers to go the second mile. If the Romans compelled them to go a mile, Jesus encouraged His followers to go beyond simple law and to do the unheard of and unthinkable.
As someone has said, almost every Jew would count exactly the number of steps he was required to go and stop on the spot. Jesus called His followers to go beyond the required
It’s hard to imagine a more terrible job than that of carrying the cross of a condemned man. Simon must have thought he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
In actuality, he was in the right place at the right time. What greater service than that of getting to carry the cross of our Lord. No doubt, Simon is remembered fondly because he was forced to carry the cross.
There are a number of things we don’t know about Simon. Was he a follower of Jesus at this point? Did he come to believe because of this event? Was he coming to the Passover from Cyrene or was Cyrene simply his place of birth?
We do know that Cyrene was a Greek settlement in modern day Libya. The city also had a significant number of Jews and Jewish proselytes (Acts 2:10).
We also know that Alexander and Rufus were his sons. They must have been well known to the early disciples. If not, would Mark have mentioned them? Rufus is mentioned in Paul’s greetings to the church at Rome (Romans 16:13).
Simon performed a great service to our Lord and gave us a picture of our duty to carry our own cross.
It has been well said that if Simon became a follower of Christ, that after having borne Jesus’ cross then Jesus bore Simon’s sin.