After they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple robe and put his clothes on him. They led him out to crucify him. They forced a man coming in from the country, who was passing by, to carry Jesus’s cross. He was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. (Mark 15:20–21 CSB17)
Mark is the only gospel writer who mentions that Simon of Cyrene, who was pressed into service to carry Jesus’ cross had two boys: Alexander and Rufus. This is fascinating. Consider for instance, if you had never been to Michigan, nor to my church, but when I was talking about it I said that the preaching pastor was Mike, who is the father of Luke, Abbie, and John. You would think me quite odd wouldn’t you? You don’t know Mike or his kids and have never been to our church, so why am I telling you the name of Mike’s kids? What if you had been to my church and met Mike and his kids, then when I referred to them it would make complete sense, you know Mike and you know his kids as well.
Mark, who church tradition tells us wrote his gospel at the behest of Peter and for a Roman audience, must have mentioned Alexander and Rufus because many/most of those who would read his gospel were acquainted with them.
Then notice what Paul says in his letter to the Romans as he is sending greetings to people that he knows: “Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother—and mine.”(Rom. 16:13 CSB17) Well, well, well, that is a very interesting connection.
Admittedly, I am speculating here because we cannot know for sure that there is a connection between the Rufus of Mark and the Rufus of Romans. What if this random Simon of Cyrene was so profoundly affected by this Man for whom he carried the cross that he came to faith himself at the foot of the cross, or shortly thereafter? What if he took that faith home to his wife and two sons, and what if the early church in Rome were acquainted with them?
Could it be that what Simon of Cyrene thought at the time was the worst duty ever compelled on a passerby in the history of the world (carrying another man’s cross so he could be crucified) turned out to be the greatest blessing that God could bestow on Simon, a blessing that eventually reached his wife and his sons, Alexander and Rufus? I would like to think they are all connected, but we cannot know for sure until we talk to Simon, Alexander, and Rufus when we get to heaven.