Romans 16, which is basically Paul’s greetings to some of the members of the Early Church, may seem like a boring chapter to read. But there are some interesting tidbits we can pull from these seemingly boring verses.
“Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine.” (Romans 16:13)
Mark 15:21 mentions a Rufus. It says that a Cyrenian man named Simon was forced to carry Christ’s cross when Jesus was too weak to carry it. It also mentions that Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus. Why would Mark mention the names of his parents? Likely because Alexander and Rufus were well-known, and also because Mark’s gospel was especially written for the church at Rome, which gives a probable identification for this Rufus mentioned by Paul in Romans. So, very likely, this Rufus that Paul mentions was the son of the man who carried Christ’s cross.
If so, then Rufus’ dad, Simon, was a Jew. To be forced by a Roman soldier to carry the cross of a condemned man would have been a bitter experience for him. But something may have happened to Simon during that experience. Instead of holding a grudge and hating this Roman soldier for forcing him to do a despicable job that was beneath him, he may possibly have been struck by the person of Jesus, and may even have (possibly out of awe or curiosity) remained to watch the crucifixion. And, just as one of the thieves on the cross next to Jesus accepted Jesus as Lord and God and Savior, Simon may also have done the same, as he watched Jesus being crucified. If this is true, he would likely have returned to Cyrene and told his family about his experience, which may have led to his family becoming Christians.
Acts 11:20 says that it was "men from Cyprus and Cyrene” who came to Antioch and first preached the gospel to the Gentiles. Could Simon have been one of these men from Cyrene? And was Rufus with him?
In Ephesus, people who served Diana of the Ephesians instigated a riot, and the crowd would have killed Paul if they could have gotten to him. But in Acts 19:33, a man by the name of Alexander is “pushed to the front.” Could this be the brother of Rufus mentioned in Romans 16:13? And is it the same Alexander mentioned in Mark 15:21? And if so, how did their mother be “as a mother” to Paul? Maybe she comforted or helped him in time of need when his own family was unable or unwilling to do so.