By Ian Wilson (Rated G)
Almost nothing is known about the man who helped our Lord Jesus carry His cross, other than his name and the place where he came from; Simon, a man of Cyrene.
Cyrene is a region in the Roman province of Libya in North Africa, which has led to some speculation that Simon of Cyrene was black. The fact is, we do not know the color of his skin. We do know that Cyrene had a large population of the Jewish diaspora. Simon, like many Jews, had likely come to Jerusalem to celebrate the passover.
The Gospels state that he was compelled to carry Jesus’ cross for him, as the Lord was too weakened by His flogging to carry it by Himself. We may infer that Simon was unwilling to carry the cross of a well-known criminal. But we can believe that such nearness to Jesus at His passion must have had an impact on his life.
In the Gospel of Mark, Simon is mentioned as being the father of Alexander and Rufus. We can assume, then, that these two individuals were well known to the Christian community that Mark was writing to. Indeed, Paul mentioned a Rufus in his letter to the Romans (Romans 16:13). From that, we might assume that Simon became a believer in Jesus, and raised his two sons to follow the Way. But neither the Scriptures, nor historical record can attest to what happened to Simon of Cyrene after the Crucifixion, so we do not know with certainty that this was the case.
May we each take up our cross willingly, and carry it daily as our Lord has commanded.