The Expository Files


Rufus, Tell Us Again About Your Father

1 Thessalonians 2:3-6

There are several Simons in the Bible. Do you remember who Simon of Cyrene is? He is the one compelled by Roman soldiers to carry the cross of Jesus the rest of the way to Golgotha after Jesus, already weakened by the scourging and abuse, had stumbled. "When they led Him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, coming in from the country, and placed on him the cross to carry behind Jesus.:( Luke 23:26).

How do you think Simon felt about this? Did he know at all what was going on? Did he believe that Jesus was a prophet of God? What became of him in the future? We do not know a lot about that, but consider something that we do know. Mark adds a little information about this Simon in his gospel. He records, "They pressed into service a passer-by coming from the country, Simon of Cyrene (the father of Alexander and Rufus), to bear His cross." (Mark 15:21).

Now, that is interesting that Mark would mention that this Simon had two sons, and name them, to the people he was writing. Mark initially directed his gospel account to those living in Rome. So why would Mark mention the sons of Simon by name in a document he is sending to people in a city far away on another continent? And why was Simon of Cyrene even in Jerusalem that day?

Well, we know that devout Jews came to Jerusalem from all over the world during the time of Passover and Pentecost (almost two months duration). Luke records of visitors being present in Jerusalem at Pentecost from "Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes... (Acts 2:10).

But note again Mark's account. Why would Mark mention names in a gospel he is writing to brethren a continent away? Well, one reason would be that those in Rome knew either Alexander or Rufus or both. In fact, when Paul writes to the Romans, he mentions Rufus by name in his greetings at the end of the letter: "Greet Rufus, a choice man in the Lord, also his mother and mine." (Romans 16:13).

If the Rufus mentioned by Paul is the son of Simon of Cyrene, it would make sense for Mark to also mention him by name as he wrote his gospel and sent it to Rome. There would really be no other reason to mention Simon's sons by name.

So, we have one of Simon's sons, a half a generation later, a member of the body at Rome. I wonder how many times he had heard his father tell the story of the day the Roman soldiers forced him into labor on the road leading out of Jerusalem? I wonder how many times Rufus was asked by those at Rome about the event in which his father had had a role. And let not the point be lost: these were people that could be talked to. Questions and discussion about events that were real. Those at Rome could talk with a man whose father had seen Jesus on that darkest of all days, just three days before the Son would rise. This is real.

By Jon W. Quinn
The Final Page
From Expository Files 17.9;  September 2010