Simon of Cyrene
Simon was a Jew of Cyrene (see the Fact Finder question below) who, by happenstance, became involved in Christ's crucifixion. Simon had journeyed to Jerusalem for Passover and entered into the city just as the Lamb of God's Passover was happening. Jesus Christ had been brutally beaten nearly to death; when He could no longer carry His own cross (cross piece, actually - see Crosses) to the place of execution, the Roman troops forced a bystander, Simon of Cyrene, to carry it.
Simon of Cyrene
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all provide witness to the crucifixion, but each does so in a unique way that when put together provide a multifaceted view. First, Matthew's account of the time from when Pontius Pilate delivered Christ to the Roman troops, to the time that they cast lots for His clothing. Matthew's account of Simon, "this man they compelled to carry His cross" is direct and plain.
"Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered Him to be crucified.
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the praetorium, and they gathered the whole battalion before Him. And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe upon Him, and plaiting a crown of thorns they put it on His head, and put a reed in His right hand. And kneeling before Him they mocked Him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" And they spat upon Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head. And when they had mocked Him, they stripped Him of the robe, and put His own clothes on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him.
As they went out, they came upon a man of Cyrene, Simon by name; this man they compelled to carry His cross. And when they came to a place called Golgotha, which means the place of a skull, they offered Him wine to drink, mingled with gall; but when He tasted it, He would not drink it. And when they had crucified Him, they divided His garments among them by casting lots; then they sat down and kept watch over Him there." (Matthew 27:26-36 RSV)
Mark provides details about Simon that Matthew didn't - that Simon was just arriving in the city and that he was the father of sons named Alexander and Rufus.
"So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas; and having scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified.
And the soldiers led Him away inside the palace, that is, the praetorium; and they called together the whole battalion. And they clothed Him in a purple cloak, and plaiting a crown of thorns they put it on Him. And they began to salute Him, "Hail, King of the Jews!" And they struck His head with a reed, and spat upon Him, and they knelt down in homage to Him. And when they had mocked Him, they stripped Him of the purple cloak, and put His own clothes on Him. And they led Him out to crucify Him.
And they compelled a passer-by, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry His cross. And they brought Him to the place called Golgotha, which means the place of a skull. And they offered Him wine mingled with myrrh; but He did not take it. And they crucified Him, and divided His garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take." (Mark 15:15-24 RSV)
Luke adds more detail that the others did not provide; the Roman troops "laid on him the cross" and Simon then carried it behind Jesus. The Messiah led the way i.e. "there followed Him a great multitude of the people."
"So Pilate gave sentence that their demand should be granted. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, whom they asked for; but Jesus he delivered up to their will.
And as they led Him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on Him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. And there followed Him a great multitude of the people, and of women who bewailed and lamented Him.
But Jesus turning to them said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, 'Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never gave suck!' Then they will begin to say to the mountains, 'Fall on us'; and to the hills, 'Cover us.' For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?"
Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with Him. And when they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. And Jesus said, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." And they cast lots to divide His garments." (Luke 23:24-34 RSV)
John doesn't mention Simon, but merely says "So they took Jesus, and He went out, bearing His own cross" - referring to the beginning of the walk to the place of crucifixion when Christ was carrying it Himself. John's detail, of this part, is much less than the other three Gospel writers, very likely because John was escorting Mary ("When Jesus saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing near, He said to His mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" Then He said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home," John 19:26-27 RSV) who was watching her son being murdered.
"Then he handed Him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha. There they crucified Him, and with Him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them." (John 19:16-18 RSV)
Fact Finder: How was Cyrene involved in Bible History?