The first point is the impressing of Simon to bear the cross. That was not dictated by compassion so much as by impatience. Apparently, the weight was too heavy for Jesus, and the pace could be quickened by making the first man who could be laid hold of help to carry the load. Mark adds that Simon was the “father of Alexander and Rufus,” whom he supposes to need no introduction to his readers. There is a Rufus mentioned in Romans 16.13 as being, with his mother, members of the Roman church. Mark’s gospel has many traces of being primarily intended for Romans. Possibly, these two Rufuses are the same, and the conjecture may be allowable that the father’s fortuitous association with the crucifixion led to the conversion of himself and his family, and that his sons were of more importance or fame in the church than he was. Perhaps, too, he is the “Simeon, called Niger” (bronzed by the hot African sun*) who was a prophet of Antioch, and stands by the side of a Cyrenian (Acts 13.1). It is singular that he should be the only one, of all the actors in the crucifixion, who should be named, and the fact suggests his subsequent connection with the church. If so, the seeking love of God found him, by a strange way. On what apparently trivial accidents a life may be pivoted, and how much may depend on turning to right or left in a walk! In this bewildering network of interlaced events, which each ramifies in so many directions, the only safety is to keep fast hold of God’s hand and to take good care of the purity of our motives, and let results alone. – Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910), from a meditation on Mark 15.21-39.
*or – a simpler explanation – he was a black African