The Mother of Rufus
In the days of the early church, a heathen professor in Antioch, heard of Anthusa, a Godly woman, the mother of Chrysostom, and threw up his hands and cried.
“What woman, these Christians have!
In the closing chapter of the book of Romans Paul pays tribute to one who evidently had proved herself to be a veritable ‘mother in Israel’ to him personally.
Paul writes in Romans16: 13. (LNT) “Greet Rufus for me, whom the Lord picked out to be his very own; and also his dear mother who has been such a mother to me”.
When Paul wrote these words, nearly 30 years had already passed by since his conversion to Christ, and Paul had traveled to many parts of Europe. Now he’s heading back to Jerusalem, with the offering of the Gentiles, to attend the feast of Pentecost. Paul has a long memory for old friends and as he writes his letter to Rome, he remembers some who are now living there and mention’s Rufus, and his mother. Paul refers to Rufus, as the Lord’s hand-picked one. Clearly Paul knew Rufus very well.
Going back to the time of Paul’s conversion to Christianity in Damascus, Paul suffered persecution and barely escaped with his life. He proceeded to Jerusalem, and after a cautious acceptance by the church, he began to fearlessly proclaim Jesus as savior to the Jews.
Massive persecution broke out, and the Christians in Jerusalem, conducted Paul to the coast and sent him to his hometown of Tarsus. Paul had lost all his friends, he was on his own, probably lonely, and I’m sure, disheartened. He had sacrificed his all for the gospel.
Due to this persecution of the Church in Judea, many of the believers fled to other places.
Amongst them were disciples who decided to go to the City of Antioch in Syria.
Some of these were Cyrenians, who began to preach Jesus to the Gentiles in Antioch (Acts 11:19–21). A great turning to the Lord took place in the city, and Barnabas was sent there to investigate this revival that was occurring. He realized that this was a place where ‘Rabbi Saul’, known later as Paul to the Greeks and Romans, would fit in very well.
Barnabas traveled to Tarsus, searched for Paul, and brought him to Antioch. He was with the ,and was listed in (Acts 13:1-3) as among the prophets and teachers of the church there.
Years later, Paul has many friends, but he still has a long memory for Rufus and his mother. They were among the first to welcome him when he was brought to Antioch. Here he was taken to their home, and this nameless woman mothered him until under her healing influence he found himself again.
Paul never forgot that blessed ministry, that big heart, that soft voice, that kindly face. I’m sure there were many nights that Rufus and Paul sat down and talked, discussing the promises of God; and around about them was that mother’s sweet presence, and influence.
Now Who is she?
- Her name is never mentioned, possibly just a simple woman.
- On the surface there seems to be nothing outstanding about her.
- She was not like Priscilla, appearing to overshadow her husband.
- Or like Lydia, who seems to have an aptitude for business.
- She was just a homebody; serving Jesus in the daily round and the common task, yet hers is a story worth hearing.
We read in our Bible, that Rufus and his mother were well known to the church. Mark speaks of Simon of Cyrene, coming in from the country (some translations say ‘from the fields’) and adds that he was the father of Alexander and Rufus (Mark 15:21). This mother was Simon’s wife!
Rufus’ father, Simon, was the man who carried Jesus Cross on the way to Calvary. Simon was a black man from the country of Libya and the city of Cyrene, that area today is called Tripoli in North Africa. It seems that for some reason Simon had immigrated to Palestine, and very possibly, was living in Jerusalem, for there were a number of Cyrenian Jews living there (Acts 6:9).
He was present in Jerusalem, for the Passover, when Jesus was crucified.
We know that after the martyrdom of Stephen, the Christians were scattered and some fled to Antioch and began to preach Jesus to the Greeks there and many believed, and a congregation sprang up in that place (Acts 11:19-21). It was here that the believers were first called “Christians” (Acts 11:26).
Among them was one Simon, who was called Niger, (the Black man LNT), and he is mentioned (Acts 13:1) in connection with Lucius also of Cyrene, and included with Paul and Barnabas as being prophets and teachers in the Church. According to early church tradition this is the same Simon. So then it was in Simon’s house, that Paul found a refuge when he was brought to Antioch from Tarsus.
What a record this family created for itself.
The father carried Jesus Cross; the mother proved her devotion to Jesus by ministering to the Lords apostle in his time of need. Who knows what the world, and in particular the Church, owes to that consecrated African Mother? Privileged? She may not have recognized it at the time, but yes, a thousand times yes!
How many of us recognize our privilege and opportunity, and rise to the occasion?
When every door was shut to Paul, then the Mother of Rufus opened hers, and ministered to his needs. She cared and loved, as only a mother can. She preached the gospel by deeds. Her daily walk told whose she was and who she served.
What was her reward?
Her boys grew up to be men who loved and followed Jesus; we find Rufus, and his mother, serving and in fellowship with the church in Rome some 30 years later. Mother, don’t lament your lack of opportunity to serve God in your home; you never know what the future holds.
Christian Mothers can leave a lasting legacy for thier children, and their children’s friends! Charles Haddon Spurgeon said, “Oh Mother, Mother, if you had not been the woman you were, I would not have been the man that I am.”
Dr Campbell Morgan writes in his biography, this story. He had four sons, and all of them grew up to become really great preachers; like their dad. One day as the family was gathered together, the youngest son, Howard asked, “Dad, Who is the greatest preacher in this family?” Dr. Campbell Morgan looked hard at each one of them in turn and then, with a twinkle in his eye said, “Your Mother!”
Mothers, honor your opportunities, accept your responsibilities, and radiate the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ from your kitchen. Study the story of the mother of Rufus. See how the humblest of duties can be transformed into services as splendid as an Angel. Children are not encumbrances, but lives in the making, which will carry remembrances of your home with them throughout their future. Paul remembered an atmosphere of heaven, and dreamed of sweet fellowship over thirty years later.
Little Anne was always embarrassed when she was present as her mother served the tea; for her mother’s hands were scarred and ugly with dark marks on them. She felt very uncomfortable, as she looked at her mother’s hands. One day her mother became aware of this and sat little Anne down and told her the story of what had happened.
“Anne”, she said, “When you were a little baby, there was a fire, and our home was burning down. I was outside when I realized that you were still in the house. I rushed in and went through the flames to find you. I picked you up out of the flames with my bare hands, and rushed outside. I was able to keep you from being burned, but not my hands. These hands were used to save your life”. Little Anne, with tears in her eyes cried, “Oh mother, they were burned to save me. I didn’t know. Oh how I love them now!”
You know, Jesus’ hands were marred for you on the Cross. Jesus went further; He died for you, and he calls you to live for him. You can do it as a mother, as a child, as a father. No matter who you are, if you have taken Jesus as your personal savior, your privilege is to live for Jesus.
Who knows whose life you may touch? Just one may turn out to be a world leader. This day is a good time to commit yourself afresh to be all you can for Jesus.