They led Jesus out to crucify him; and they compelled a passer-by, Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to go with them to carry his cross.
hey no stumbling
for a king you’re weak
must be too much wine
ho you there
you’re strong enough
carry this to there
hey got you a courtier
up and at it
the day’s moving on
ho what’s your hurry
got a funeral to attend
you’re on state business here
Occupying troops carry with them the right to requisition what they need, including impressing people into their service. Sometimes there are limits set on such activities so as not to burden the occupied into an earlier revolt than a historically expected change of power would occur. One rule of thumb is that someone can be recruited to carry something for a designated distance such as a mile or some number of stadion.
It is difficult to discern whether being in the right place to be arrested or the wrong place to carry a crossbeam is of G*D or fate or a fluke.
With very little to go on, Readers need to turn their speculator up a notch. Cyrene is in North Africa. Passover is a time of faithful Jews coming to Jerusalem and, presumably, Simon is a Jew from Cyrene. Whether Simon is more Semitic or more African cannot be told. A Reader is advised to consider both options.
Mark does not do a lot with identifying particular people with a name. Alexander and Rufus would likely be known to Mark’s community or these references would not have anything to ground them. There is a Rufus mentioned in Romans 16:13 but no way to know if they are the same person or another occasion when more than one person carries the same name.
In later time, there would be those who speculate that Jesus was not crucified (did not die) but that Simon was the one who was crucified in place of Jesus. This would parallel Jesus taking Barabbas’ place in the crucifixion queue.
It is also possible to consider that Simon of Cyrene reprises the role of Simon Peter and adds facilitator of Jesus’ crucifixion to runner-away and denier/betrayer. Of playing with names there is no end.
Simon’s coming from the countryside can also indicate a peasant status instead of being a well-enough-off pilgrim.