"They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry (Jesus') cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus."
For those of us who know the story of Jesus' crucifixion, there are a few "supporting characters" that make a memorable (albeit brief) appearance: the thieves hanging alongside Jesus on Golgotha, the women who watched at a distance, Joseph of Aramathea (who gets permission to bury Jesus' body), and Simon of Cyrene. Simon is the guy who was forced to carry Jesus' cross (presumably when Jesus could not carry it anymore himself). Each of these people are quite familiar to us.
But today as I was re-reading Mark's version of this story, I noticed the statement that Simon was "the father of Alexander and Rufus." Why would Mark state this fact? There are many other characters in his gospel (most, actually) who don't have their children named. Why Simon?
Scholars tell us that Mark was probably the earliest-written of the 4 Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John). It was penned around 70AD... close to 40 years after Jesus' death & resurrection. So I'm guessing that Simon's kids, Alexander & Rufus, were probably known by Mark's community. They'd become followers of Jesus! Maybe they were even leaders?! Maybe they'd shared their story about how their father's one-time (chance?) experience with Jesus on that fateful Friday morning changed everything for them. Maybe they each had become beloved figures in their own right - loving and generous servants of Jesus who helped inspire & encourage new disciples. So when Mark tells his story... and gets to that particular moment... he mentions a guy named Simon who carried Jesus' cross. "And you know whose Dad he was?" (Mark's community waits to hear what comes next) "It was Alexander & Rufus' Father!" ("No way!!?!!)
As a parent, one of my ongoing prayers for my two children is that they become people of significance. I don't mean rich, famous, powerful or well-known. I mean people who make a positive contribution to society & to the lives of others. I mean people whom others genuinely care about and want to be around. I mean people who love God and want to serve Him with all their hearts. Then one day my name may come up in conversation somewhere... and someone can say, "And you know whose Dad he was? Emily & Ezra's!" And people will smile, because they know the kind of human beings Ezra & Emily grew up to be.
(And thanks, Dad, for helping me to be the person I am today!)