What a story must lie behind the opening words of verse thirteen (Romans 16), “Greet Rufus…” You may be thinking, “Ah, I have heard that name somewhere before”, and you would be absolutely right. Do you recall, as the Lord Jesus was staggering under the weight of the crossbeam of the cross, and the accompanying soldiers forced a complete stranger from North Africa, Simon of Cyrene, to carry it instead? Mark mentions this in his Gospel (Mark 15:21), but he adds a little more information. He tells us that Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus. Yes, we believe, the very same Rufus that Paul sends greetings to in Romans 16. ‘But’, you may be wondering, ‘how did a family from North Africa end up in Rome?’ And how did Mark know them? To answer the first question we must realise that there were immigrants in the first century as well as the 21 century. One writer suggests that Simon may have died, so his widow took her two sons to Rome and settled there. There may just be a hint in the name Rufus that they were not true North Africans. Rufus means red, – could this refer to the colour of his hair? If so, could this also mean that they were European rather than African? The hair colour of true Africans is black. Mark probably knew the family because he had lived for some time and wrote his account of the life of the Lord Jesus on planet earth, (The Gospel of Mark), in that great city. They may have attended the same house church — who knows? One thing we can be certain about, Mark certainly knew them and some of their history. Somehow Paul had also got to know the family, even though he had never been to Cyrene, and at the time of writing his letter to the Roman believers, he had not visited Rome. Rufus must have been a prominent leader in the church in Rome, otherwise I don’t think Paul would have greeted him by name if he was not well known and easily identified. Paul tells us that he was ‘chosen in the Lord’. William Hendriksen suggests that there is no reason to put any other interpretation on this phrase rather than that he — Rufus was chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world — elect, although the ANT interprets the phrase as ’eminent in the Lord’. I think we can agree that he was both ‘chosen’ and ’eminent”! You may wonder where Alexander had got to. We don’t know, – he may not have been a Christian, he may have died, or he was simply not a resident of Rome. A quick reading of the last phrase of verse thirteen might suggest that Paul and Rufus had the same mother, ‘his mother and mine’. Let’s call on the ANT to help us clear up this matter. Here is how the ANT renders it, ‘… his mother (who has been) a mother to me also’. Somewhere in his missionary travels (not in Cyrene or in Rome), Paul needed some special care and attention. Maybe even to be nursed back to health, from illness, and this unnamed woman, the mother of Rufus, gave it to him. Some have called Paul a male chauvinist, but read carefully this thoughtful observation from William Hendriksen, ‘… the apostle again proves that he appreciates what the female members have done and are doing for himself and for the church, to the glory of God’. Where would we be without the women in the church! Rufus had a good mother. Wouldn’t it be good to have your address book filled with friends like these!