The Expository Files


Tell Us Again, Rufus, About Your Dad

There are several Simons in the Bible. Do you remember who Simon of Cyrene is? He was passing by when a group of Roman soldiers pressed him into service. Luke's gospel records "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 with me that we do know.

Simon was the father of two sons. Mark's gospel adds this fact: "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).

Perhaps Simon was in Jerusalem for the Passover. We know that for the following Pentecost there were visitors from all over the known world gathered together in Jerusalem to celebrate the festival. This included "Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes..." (Acts 2:10). Mark's gospel seems primarily directed at Gentiles, and specifically Romans.

There was probably a reason that Mark mentioned the names of the two sons of Simon in his gospel. The names evidently meant something to the Roman Christians at the time the gospel was written. In fact, in Paul's letter to the church art Rome he sends personal greetings to the brethren there mentioning many of them by name. Among those he mentioned was Rufus: "Greet Rufus, a choice man in the Lord, also his mother and mine" (Roman 16:13).

But note again Mark's account. This explains why Mark mentions the sons' names in a gospel he is writing to brethren a continent away. One of Simon's sons, a half a generation later, is a member of the Lord's church there. I wonder how many times Rufus had heard his father tell the story of the day the Roman soldiers forced him into labor on the road leading out of Jerusalem? And how often had he repeated to others the things he had heard about his father's personal experience on that darkest of all Friday mornings.

At any rate, these were people that could be talked to. These were people who had actually witnessed the things we're told in the gospels. This is not a made up tale. Ask Rufus' father.

By Jon W. Quinn
The Front Page
From Expository Files 16.12; December 2009