Simon of Cyrene was the person that the Romans obliged to carry the cross of Jesus as the Lord was taken to his crucifixion “And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross” (Matthew 27:32).
Simon is mentioned in the gospel books of Matthew, Mark and Luke. Matthew gives his name and place of his origin (27:32). Mark and Luke record that he was “on his way in from the country” (Luke 23:26). And Mark adds that he is “the father of Alexander and Rufus” (Mark 15:21). The person by the name Rufus could have been the same individual that was greeted by Paul in Romans 16:13.
Simon of Cyrene could have been an African man because Cyrene was a city of Libya, in North Africa. And it is also possible that Simon could have simply been born there as were many others of Greek, Roman, and Jewish descent.
The Cyrenain culture was mostly Hellenistic, but it possessed a large Jewish colony, the result of a deportation from Palestine under Ptolemy I (Josephus Against Apion ii. 4 ). There was a synagogue in Jerusalem identified with Cyrenians and others (Acts 6:9).
Believers from Cyrene were among those converted at Pentecost (Acts 2:10). But after the martyrdom of Stephen (Acts 7), they were scattered by the persecution in Jerusalem. As they reached Antioch, they evangelized the Gentiles (Acts 11:20). They had such success in their work that Barnabas and Saul of Tarsus went to help them (Acts 11:19–26). And there, “the disciples were called Christians” (Acts 11:26).
Simon had the high privilege of carrying the cross of Jesus and by doing so, he shared in the Lord’s sufferings which was a great blessing to him, and he was ever after grateful for this providence. Today, it is our privilege to bear the cross of Jesus by remaining true to principle in the face of unpopularity and persecution.
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In His service,
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