There is a minor character in the drama of Holy Week by the name of Simon, a man of Cyrene. He was just passing by as Jesus came out of a night of torture and bruality. Jesus was weak. He could not carry the cross up the hill where he would be crucified on Good Friday. Instead, a stranger was "compelled to bear his cross."
It is likely that the man of Cyrene had no idea who Jesus was. He was a criminal on his way to be crucified. The soldiers made sure that Simon would carry that cross right up to the hill.
Jesus perhaps staggered and fell on the way. The soldiers would have continued to abuse him. Simon could only slow down with the heavy cross on his shoulders and watch this abuse. Jesus had been beaten up. He had lashes across his back and shoulders so he could not have carried the cross without falling and fainting from the pain. The soldiers had no sympathy. They just did what they had to do to get the prisoner up the hill to the torture chamber of the cross.
The cross so heavy was carried not by a disciple as they had all run away but by a stranger. So what does this carrying of a cross say to us? Does it perhaps mean that when we see someone suffering from dire poverty that we should reach out a hand and carry that poverty by extending food or clothes?
Does it mean, perhaps, that if we see children locked in apartments with no summer school that we do something for Jesus by carrying these kids out of those places and put them in camp?
Does it mean that if we see someone beaten and abused by others that we do what we can do IN JESUS' NAME? It is interesting that in the trek up the hill we see Jesus, as we would be: weak, bleeding, beaten and not able to carry his own cross.
The man of Cyrene, comes and bears the cross and then disappears from the story. Perhaps he heard later who Jesus was. Perhaps he fell to his knees and believed for the cross that he had had the honor to bear.
Bearing a cross is not about a hardship that we are carrying but it is about carrying something for another in Jesus's name.