The New Testament mentions many obscure people. One is Simon, grabbed by Romans soldiers to carry the cross behind Jesus for the final leg of that famous walk to Golgotha. Matthew, Mark and Luke mention him. John generalizes the incident by stating “He went out, bearing His own cross” (Jn.19:17). His exposure in the gospel writings indicates his important, yet unexpected role with the cross. Simon has always been remembered by grateful disciples down through the centuries.
Yet he didn’t volunteer to carry it, and there’s no evidence he was a believer when the Romans forced him to. He was simply a North African Jew, likely in the city for Passover, and simply by chance in the right place when Jesus needed some help (Lk.23:26). He saw firsthand the jeering bystanders, heartbroken followers, grim soldiers, and the injured Messiah as they moved through the streets. At the final destination, he would have watched the crucifixion. These things changed him forever. Years later, Mark mentions that Simon of Cyrene was the father of Alexander and Rufus , who were likely Christians by the time his gospel was written. (Mk.15:21). All of this is a good indication that Simon himself had become a disciple, thus affecting his children.
I find two things to learn from Simon. 1). Obscure people (and don’t we think of ourselves that way sometimes?) can be used by God for marvelous good works that change people’s lives. 2). We must carry our own cross for Jesus Christ without complaining. Perhaps Simon is a microcosm for all of us cross-bearers. He did heavy work, endured shame that was not his, followed the suffering Master, and didn’t quit. Isn’t that what Jesus’ calls us to do? (Mk.8:34)
– Tim Johnson