“Greet Rufus, whom the Lord picked out to be his very own; and also his dear mother, who has been a mother to me.” What touching words!
Who is Rufus and his mother, whom Paul endearingly claims to be his mother? The only other reference is by St. Mark: “And they (soldiers) compel one Simon, a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross. And they brought him (Jesus) unto a place called Golgotha.”
The soldiers picked up any wood that was handy, rough, but strong enough to hold a man hanging, possibly cut from an Olive or Sycamore tree. As Jesus left the walled city of Jerusalem, his strength and tottering limbs failed. The impatient soldiers forced Simon from northern Africa to carry the beam to the place of execution. Was he a black man and a sympathizer of another human being? Did he ever hear of Jesus before?
We do know Simon had a wife and two sons, Alexander and Rufus. This unexpected forced labourer and his family became disciples. Finally, I come to the widowed old mother, the wife of the only person in history who bore the cross with Jesus. Since there is no further mention of Simon or Alexander, theologians deduce they have by then passed away. Rufus did what a man has to do and the mother did her part –mother’s care and hospitality. Paul had first hand inspiration to include hospitality to the list on the fruits of the Spirit; which by the way is just as important as teaching or preaching and prophesying!
Now we can sense Paul’s tender heart beat. Here we meet not the Saul of Tarsus, the Pharisee of Pharisees who sat at the feet of Gamaliel, the great Apostle to the Gentile, but the man – Paul.
Leaders with an intense vision and a dogged determination, have greater needs than what we think. If you get closer to them as I have, few will open up and fewer still may bare their souls and confide. Bear with me a simple experience with the late Dr. Mark Buntain, the great missionary to Calcutta, during one of his several visits to Toronto between 1971 to 1987. Grace and I and the girls (though very young they would still remember) took the pastor to downtown Toronto, Nathan Philips Square. It was winter and kids were skating and having fun. It was then that I saw Pastor’s eyes twinkle and hilariously hebehaved like a teenager! He told me he used to skate there years ago as a youngster! You see, for a short time he was not thinking of sermons or cumbered with the burden of raising support for Calcutta, but could get away and be himself.
Imagine Paul writing to the Corinthian Believers: “I’ve been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me 39 lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once was stoned. Three times I was ship wrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea…..I faced dangers from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas…..Besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for the churches”. This widowed mother and son’s home was heaven on earth!
Now I can feel Mahathma Paul reminisce his stay with Rufus and his dear mother. St. Paul had never seen Jesus the Son of Man, except the risen Lord on the Damascus Road. Was it coincidence or divine pleasure of the Heavenly Father to connect Paul, the once persecutor of Jesus, now to know personally this precious family? There evidently was a closer bond! Paul could come any time to the Cyrenian home and say “Mom I am home!” The old mother was not too spiritual that she was blind to the natural. She saw Paul’s heart but also his hungry stomach, a bath and a clean bed to sleep!
This is what I mean by “in search of moderation”, the balancing of all virtues. The old widow and her son ministered as unto the Lord. We are called to be ministers!
God bless, Danny Paul