What do we know about Simon of Cyrene?
Simon of Cyrene is mentioned in Matthew, Mark, and Luke as the man who carried the cross of Jesus to the location of His death. Since Cyrene was located in modern day Libya, many have suggested that Simon was a dark-skinned African man who had come to Jerusalem to worship during the Passover. However, since only his hometown was specified and many Jews lived in Cyrene during this time, his ethnicity is unknown for certain.
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The known facts given about Simon of Cyrene include the following. First, he was a worshiper of the God of the Jews. This likely meant he was a dispersed Jewish man who had returned for the Passover celebration.
Second, he was a father and had brought his two sons to celebrate the Passover. Their names are given in Mark 15:21 as Alexander and Rufus. They were likely old enough to travel to Jerusalem from Cyrene (likely 12 or older at the time). Nothing is mentioned of their mother so her status is unknown.
Third, however, many have connected Rufus with the same Rufus mentioned in Romans 16:13: "Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well." If so, the mother of Rufus was certainly a Christian by this time, as was Rufus, both serving in Rome among the Roman believers. Yet it is not clear if this is the same Rufus or not, so the connection is only one possibility.
Fourth, people from Cyrene were among the first Christian believers at the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:10). Perhaps Simon, Alexander, and Rufus were among those who heard and believed? If so, the connection of Rufus in Romans 16:13 would not be surprising.
In addition, some believers from Cyrene fled Jerusalem following the death of Stephen (Acts 7) and began sharing their faith in Antioch. Acts 13:1 mentions Lucius of Cyrene as one of the teachers of the Christians at Antioch.
Simon of Cyrene was the man pulled from the crowd who was commanded to carry the cross of Jesus. He likely felt the blood of Jesus and even touched the broken body of Christ on the day Jesus died. His unique experience likely led to him coming to faith in Jesus himself. This may have even taken place only a few weeks later at the Day of Pentecost. If so, it would explain why Matthew, Mark, and Luke mention his name, and why his two sons were mentioned. Further, if the connection in Romans 16:13 is correct, his wife also became a Christian. Further, this would show that all four family members were Christians and well known to the Roman Christians within 25 years of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. To accomplish this feat would have required a strong faith and missionary component in lives of Simon and his family members, one we can likewise follow in our lives today.
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