They pulled a man out of the crowd. They had to do something. The brutal lashing had left the condemned prisoner near collapse. Carrying the cross beam was a part of the humiliation and torture. The road to Golgotha through the city was lined with the curious, the taunting, the grieving, and the confused. The squad of Roman legionnaires knew their grim duty well. Crucifixion was a macabre march of death and the soldiers became concerned that this one wouldn’t make it to the place of execution. So they pulled a man out of the crowd.
Not much is known about him. Mark referred to him as the father of Alexander and Rufus who must have been well known in the early church (Mark 15:21; Romans 16:13). He came from Cyrene, a city in North Africa. We don’t know why he was in Jerusalem that day. There has been much speculation. Coming so far for the Passover festival, it could have been his first time in the holy city. He certainly could not have known he would be picked for such a grisly assignment. He had no choice but obey.
Can you imagine? Being forced to bear the cross for Jesus, Simon could tell the soldiers had a right to be concerned. Jesus had been beaten and whipped until His features were almost unrecognizable. His breathing was ragged. And the blood … oh, the blood.
Did Simon know about Jesus? Did he have an opinion about the man from Galilee? He bore the cross because he was forced to do so. Would he have stayed to watch? Would he have come away with understanding or just more questions?
No, we don’t know much about Simon the Cyrene. We know he bore the cross of Jesus. We also know Jesus bore the cross for him, for you, for me, for the world He died to save.