Alexander & Rufus, the Sons of Simon

In my devotional time on Thursday, I was reading in Mark 15 about Jesus carrying his cross to Calvary.  The passages says, And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. ” (Mark 15:21)

Cyrene was a city in North Africa in modern day Libya.  A “passerby” from Libya is called upon to carry Jesus’ cross.  But what struck me more than that was the naming of the two sons, Alexander & Rufus.  Alexander, a name no were else mentioned in the Scriptures.  But Rufus is found again in Romans 16:13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well.”

It seems that Simon, his unnamed wife, Alexander, and Rufus, all became Christians and were known in the Christian community of Rome.  How extraordinary did this “passerby” moment impact the lives of this whole family.

What did the boys think when their dad was called upon to carry Jesus’ cross?  Were they scared?  Were they confused?  They understood the cross was meant for punishment and death.  What had their father done to deserve this humiliation?  Did they think their father was being punished?  Did they understand who this Jesus’ was anyway?  The two sons watched their father bear a cross upon his back for the Lord. 

Here is the application the Lord laid on my heart: Do my two sons, Isaac and Ethan, see their father bearing my cross for the Lord?  Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (Matthew 16:24)

Lord, please let my sons see me take up my cross daily and allow that to impact their lives as it did Alexander and Rufus.

9 thoughts on “Alexander & Rufus, the Sons of Simon

  1. I had never caught the cross reference…Wow. It is amazing to me how many of the “little” mentions show up large in Church history. Perhaps someone has taken to heart the statement Jesus made about the least becoming the greatest.

    Deny…take up…follow…you are right–all the best dads do, and so do their sons.


  2. I read this account this morning (and have read it many times) and for the first time it dawned on me that the two sons were mentioned. I went to Google and found your blog and my spirit was made glad by what I read. I have two sons, Jonathan and Joshua and my wife is named Jennifer as well. I am blessed in that both sons are saved and work in Campus Crusade for Christ while they are attending College (the oldest graduated Sunday but still wants to help the local CC). Thank you for this blessing.

  3. I’ve read Mark many times but I’m doing a more indepth study this summer. When I reached this verse about the two sons I studied Christ Notes and also Googled their names. This brought me to your blog. We never know how our actions will affect our children. Thank you for your blog.

    • I was sruck by the naming of the sons of Simon as you were. There are mentions of Alexander and John seized and questioned by the high priest in Acts 4:4. Later on another metion of Alexander who was involved in the spreading of the gospel at Ephesus. A silversmith Demetrius by name caused a great comotion because his trade was threatened. He was involved making idols of Diana. Acts 19. Later on in 1st Timothy, Paul warned Timothy not to shipwreck his faith and conscience as had Hymenus and Alexander. Appearently they had blasphemed somehow and were delivered to Satan. After this, last time in scripture, Timothy is warned about the damage Alexander was causing to Paul. “Beware of him” it is said.
      All the same man? I don’t know. But brothers are mentioned all through scriptute almost from the first page, one who is chosen in the Lord and one who is evil and ungodly. I think it is significant that Rufus is said to be chosen in he Lord and nowhere is that said about Alexander. Same youthful experiences, same family, same circumstances but different outcomes.

      • Howard – a slight correction: It was Peter and John who were seized, then questioned by the Sanhedrin. Among the priests mentioned, there was one who was named Alexander. Now, whether the defender of the cause in Acts 19:33 is Alexander the Priest (who may have later became a Christian), or if it was Alexander the Son of Simon of Cyrene, or even the Coppersmith Alexander (who would later be condemned by paul in 1 Tim 1:20 and 2 Tim 4:14) remains anyone’s guess. It seems that Shane Garrison is of the opinion that the first brother mentioned simply disappears after this single mention of being the son of Simon – and that is his right of opinion.

  4. You bring up an intriguing set of connections. We have a Roman-African connection in Cyrene. Simon and his wife; Alexander and Rufus, his sons. Then in Acts of the Apostles 13:1-3 we have Paul & Barnabas with another native of Cyrene, Lucius; then a man named Simon (known as Niger). Is this another name for Simon of Cyrene (for Niger means “black” {or “swarthy”} only in Latin, not in Greek – even though Acts is written in Greek. The name is written out in Greek letters as “Niger.”) That would put Paul in contact with early Christians from Cyrene. Mark is held to be the founder of the church in Alexandria. In the next century we have a bishop of Rome, Victor I (180-190) at the very same time that there is an African-Libyan emperor, Septimius Severus. If we include the eunuch of Candace (the Qandake or reigning queen of Ethiopia), we have the beginnings of a sizable number of African Christians showing up at the very beginning of the early growth of Christianity. All of them may have been part of the African- Jewish community dating back to Hezekiah, as well as to the Oniad family serving as priests in the Jewish temple in Heliopolis (On).
    The connection, then, between Paul’s greeting to Rufus and his mother gives three distinct places where Simon of Cyrene’s family is known and mentioned: Mark’s Gospel (Mk 15:21), Paul’s Letter to the Romans (16:3) and Acts of the Apostles 13:1. Harry Fritz mentions the “Alexander” of Acts 19:33 with the not at all impossible suggestion that he might be Rufus’ brother, and one either known to or associated with Paul. Then the question might be raised of whether this was the same person written about in 1 Tm 1:19-20 and again in 2Tm 4:14-16?

  5. Pingback: When the verdict hurts – Rufus and Alexander | johnjohnsonsgranddaughter

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