Simon of Cyrene is one of the little heroes of the Passion of our Lord. An unsuspecting bystander, he is pressed into service by the Roman soldiers when Jesus collapses under the weight of his cross. They compel Simon to carry the cross for Jesus for the remainder of the walk to Calvary. But who is Simon? And why is he in Jerusalem that day?
Mark provides a partial answer to the first question. Simon is the father of Alexander and Rufus. Apparently these are men who would have been known to the members of Mark’s community. Presumably, they were Christians. No doubt, they would have told their fellow believers all about their father’s terrible, yet awesome experience. They would have known why he was in town that day.
An old tradition gives this explanation: Simon was a farmer. He had come into Jerusalem that day to sell his produce to city folk who were preparing the Passover feast to be eaten that evening. Simon had eggs to sell, something that everyone would need for the Seder table. When the soldiers forced him to carry the cross of Jesus, Simon had no choice but to leave his basket of eggs behind. Remarkably, when he returned for his basket later in the day, it was still there, and not an egg was missing. But, even more remarkably, the eggs were no longer white, but were brightly colored. Christians continue to color eggs in memory of the first man to take up the cross of Jesus.