At the beginning of today’s New Testament reading, Simon of Cyrene enters the scene. Simon is forced to carry Jesus’ cross and one cannot help but wonder what their interaction would have been like. Did they exchange glances, were his clothes stained with the blood of the Savior, did he and Jesus speak and how well did this man from Cyrene know the One whose cross he was carrying?!
Simon is mentioned in three of the gospels. Cyrene was in northern Africa - in modern day Libya - and Mark states that Simon was “the father of Alexander and Rufus” (Mk 15:21), quite posssibly the Rufus mentioned in Romans 16:13. This would indicate that Paul knew Simon’s family years after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Curiously, in Antioch - the city where believers were first called Christians - a ‘Lucius of Cyrene’ and a ‘Simeon who was called Niger’ are mentioned as the Lord commissions Barbabus and Paul (Acts 13:1-3). In the original language, the word "Niger" is best translated as "black."
So what we have in the text of Scripture is the action of two men - certainly African and most likely black - who the Holy Spirit thought significant enough to include in Holy Scripture. A man who carried the cross of our Savior and a man who ministered in one of the most significan churches in the New Testament. Praise the Lord Who has ‘made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth’’ (Acts 17:26)!