And they compel one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross.
And they drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward. And Alexander beckoned with the hand, and would have made his defence unto the people.
Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine.
(Rom 16:13) (above taken from KJV)
I have many times wondered about Simon the Cyrenian, and what the single act of helping to bear the cross of Christ must have done to him, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. What of his family? Simon was a devout Jew, we can speculate, because he was in attendance at Passover in Jerusalem, some 800 miles away from his homeland. (800 miles for worship service? How many grumble at 50 miles, and with a car?) He survived in the Christian community because Mark (who according to Tradition – from Papias – wrote what Peter preached) knew enough of him to make special mention, unlike the others who grace the pages of the Gospels, of his two children. Two children in that day was not normal, so we can further speculate that these two children, out of 5, 6 maybe 8, made mention because they were important to the early Church.
We know that Alexander, Rufus, and their mother had an impact on the life of the Apostle Paul. Further we know that the Apostle Paul made an impact on the life of Mark, the gospel writer. It would be guess that this family from Simon who bore the cross of Christ for a short time, became Christians and further were missionaries of some sort because the next we see them mentioned in Rome.
However, in Paul’s first letter to Timothy, we read of a final instance of Alexander in Paul’s life, where Paul said,
Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.
(1Ti 1:20 KJVA)
We know that Paul contrary to a modern approach to him by scholars of various sorts, was not a heartless and cruel man, but one of deep compassion and conviction in helping his fellow Christian. In one of the most moving and powerful of Paul’s pastoral statements, he lists a series of persecutions against him, and then he says that above all these things, his care is still for the Church.
Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? (I am talking like I am out of my mind!) I am even more so: with much greater labors, with far more imprisonments, with more severe beatings, facing death many times. Five times I received from the Jews forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with a rod. Once I received a stoning. Three times I suffered shipwreck. A night and a day I spent adrift in the open sea. I have been on journeys many times, in dangers from rivers, in dangers from robbers, in dangers from my own countrymen, in dangers from Gentiles, in dangers in the city, in dangers in the wilderness, in dangers at sea, in dangers from false brothers, in hard work and toil, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, many times without food, in cold and without enough clothing. Apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxious concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not burn with indignation? If I must boast, I will boast about the things that show my weakness.
(2Co 11:22-30 NET)
Yet, it is the same Paul who wrote this that had to let Alexander go. Alexander, the son of the man who took Simon Peter’s promised place of never deserting Christ, who was the son of a woman who had become like Paul’s mother, and the brother of a man that Paul had called chosen in the Lord. It was this Alexander that once was persecuted by the Jews and would have given a defense had the assembly not been stopped. He followed the Apostles enough to be recognized by Luke and Mark, but yet, something happened where he had to be released.
Paul says that he turn him and his friend over to the adversary so that they would learn not to speak evil things. Who knows what the actual offense was, but we do know that Paul many times would seek to correct a congregation, so it is fair to say that Alexander had had his chances as well. Perhaps Paul had personally counseled him, prayed with him and for him, or made intercession so deeply into the night, as Paul was apt to do. But in the end, Paul had to let Alexander go so that the adversary could have his way with him, hoping that someone would learn to stay in God’s way.
I cannot imagine the pain that Paul would have had, for it was not merely Paul that was affected. Can you imagine, if you will give me just one moment, the weary Apostle standing in the door way of some home in ancient Rome, not wanting to come in, although the family had welcomed him in with open arms so many times before. As a matter of fact, the woman of the house had become Paul’s mother in the Lord, long after his own mother perhaps had passed or excommunicated him because of his Christian faith. As Paul walks in and sees the family that had ministered to him in his many times of need, the only thing that he can offer in return is to say that the older soon had been abandoned by the Church. Here, the wife of a husband who had touched the blood of Christ, who had so many years before met the Saviour one on one, and whose children she had attempted to raise in the Church, now, the aged Apostle had abandoned him to the adversary.
As a mother, it would have been difficult, I imagine to accept, but sometimes, things like this need to be done. I return again, on this blog, to memories of my grandfather. He and my grandmother had adopted my mother and given them the home that I hope to give my own children, but in the end, she rebelled against them and her upbringing becoming someone foreign to them. They still very much loved her. When my grandmother passed, it was left to my grandfather to rescue my mother from time to time. On one particular dead-end, my grandfather showed up and pulled my mother, my sister and myself away from the deep cesspool that she had led us into. He could have easily forgotten her, but instead, he chose to love her and to still care for her. He brought us to Mississippi (from Baton Rouge, Louisiana) and provided us a place in order that my mother would get back on her feet.
She maintained her ties to the life style that he had sought to rescue her from, and in was in no time that she and my mother moved back to Louisiana (I chose to stay). He could do no more for her, because no matter how many times he tried, she still sunk back into the depths. I asked him how he managed to go on. He would, he said, simply give it to the Lord. I know that it still weighed on him, and in the closing of his life, he started to cease the rescue attempts, in hopes that she would pick herself up. There were times that she would call for help, but he could not give it because he had given her so much as it were. It took love to give and love to withhold.
It took love for Paul to give up Alexander, when he was doing his best to hold the Church together and to preach salvation to the entire world. It was love that Paul had for Alexander. I can imagine that Paul had sleepless nights over Alexander; scriptures do not tell us that Alexander ever came back to the fold. We will know one day, however, when we see Paul and those that he loved.
We have to continue to pray for those that need tough love, but in the end, no one can right a person who does not want it.