Of all the characters mentioned in the crucifixion the one with the most questions seems to be Simon of Cyrene. However, Simon does also speak a large lesson of how something one is compelled to do can often turn into an act of service so great that it reaches God’s remembrance. We know little about Simon. He is said to have two sons which re named which meant the gospel writers who mentioned him knew him well enough to know he had two sons. Later in Scripture many feel the Simon mentioned in Acts 13 might be him and there is a Rufus mentioned in Romans that might have been one of his sons that is mentioned here in Mark.
Tradition of the church has filled in some of the blanks. Whether those traditions are accurate is I suppose debatable. Tradition says Simon was a black man, which if true would mean that he was a proselytized believer to the Jewish faith or just a Gentile guy standing on the sidelines. Either way the one thing that was certain is that Roman soldiers compelled him to carry Jesus’ cross. Jesus makes allusion to this practice when he gives the teaching ‘if someone compels you to go one mile , go two.’ According to a former officer friend of mine the practice of posse comitatus can still be used by modern officers. The point is Simon was not a volunteer.
Probably the greatest mythology about Simon picking up the cross in place of Jesus is that he did so at the half way point. That is probably not true if you read the text. It is my theory that the centurion saw that there was no way Jesus was going to be able in his weakened condition to carry the cross so he compelled Simon to carry it pretty much right out of the gate. The route from the Praetorium to Golgotha is only about 2000 feet (under a half a mile) so Simon would have carried it the whole right behind Jesus.
Simon is the living and breathing Biblical illustration of ‘If any man would come after me. let him deny himself take up his cross and follow me.” Simon had to deny himself and submit to the authority over him, he had to take up the cross and follow Jesus. The fact is Simon would have had to step over and through drops of Jesus blood ad perhaps fallen bits of flesh. He would have had to watch Jesus walk toward his end knowing perhaps that he was an innocent many the religious leadership wanted dead but Pilate had declared innocent. The question we never be able to answer is “What was he thinking?”
It is perhaps this question that becomes more reflective to us “What would we be thinking?” What happens when we seem to be compelled to do something that we don’t want to do and then suddenly realize that it is where God wants us to be so we can serve Christ? Something Simon of Cyrene would have deeply understood. In the end, Simon (it can be reasonably assumed) gave his life to Christ and his son served Christ as well. Sometimes we might want to reflect on the idea that what we seemed to being compelled to do against our will is where we might find the time of greatest service.