Family Connection

Can you imagine being Simon? No, not Simon Peter. I mean Simon of Cyrene. Simon Peter had left Jesus. He denied him, betrayed Jesus.

Simon of Cyrene wasn’t even really involved. He was there in Jerusalem from north Africa. He wasn’t even from that area. Cyrene was a Greek colony in what is today the northeastern part of Libya.

Maybe Simon just wanted to see what all of the fuss was about. Why were the people shouting? Maybe he just wanted to see.

But then suddenly a Roman soldier grabs him and tells him that he has to carry this man’s cross. “Wait, what? What did I do?” I can imagine that he had a sense of fear, a terror that he was suddenly caught up in something that was beyond him. “Why did I stick around here?” he might have thought. Simon now had to carry Jesus’s cross up to Golgotha, also known as the Place of the Skull.

Mark takes special note to write that Simon of Cyrene was the father of Alexander and Rufus.

A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross.

Mark 15:21

Right there, with his son’s name being Alexander, we begin to get a sense of connection to Cyrene, and Cyrene’s connection to the Greeks. But what struck me even more is that Mark evidently knew these two sons, Alexander and Rufus. Or maybe Mark’s audience, the early church, would recognize these names.

In fact, the names Alexander and Rufus do show up later in the New Testament. There was an Alexander who was a Jew and was in Ephesus at the same time as Paul and was pushed to the front by the Jews to give a defense for Paul and the Christians in the midst of the riot by the silversmiths who made Artemis idols.

And there is a Rufus who is mentioned by Paul in connection with his mother who are evidently now in Rome but who have been with Paul in other contexts as well.

It could be that these are the same Alexander and Rufus, or they could be completely different people. It is hard to say. What is clear, though, is that Mark knows them both and so would have, in all likelihood, his readers given that he makes direct reference to them as he speaks who Simon of Cyrene is that carried Jesus’s cross. Clearly Simon looked more into who this Jesus was and passed this information along also to his sons. Maybe even his sons saw their dad have to carry Jesus’s cross. Maybe they had a direct family connection with the Messiah, the Savior of the world. Maybe they had a story to tell together as a family of that time that they were in Jerusalem and they saw God in the flesh being crucified for their sins.

May the Lord help us also to teach our children. May our families truly know the faith of their mothers and fathers. May the children know Christ through their parents, and then one day also know him directly for themselves. Let us not abdicate our responsibility as parents to tell our children of our experience with Christ. Let us be close to the Lord, even taking up our cross and carrying it because of what Jesus has done for us so that he will receive all of the glory for what he has done.

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