Bible Articles

Bible Articles

Paul's "Mother"


Romans 16:13 – “Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine.”

I love Mother’s Day and all of the precious memories the day brings to my mind of my wonderful mother. There is a picture on my desk of a little boy standing at his mother’s knee as she sat on the front porch of our farmhouse. It was there that she read Bible stories to me and answered my questions about so many things. Years ago when Coach “Bear” Bryant was living, he did a long distance phone commercial in which he encouraged everyone to call his mom on Mother’s Day. “Did you call your mama? I sure wish I could call mine.”

I love Mother’s Day because it elevates good mothers at a time when the world around us diminishes motherhood’s vital importance. If you asked a ten-year-old girl what she wants to be when she grows up and she said, “I want to be a good mother,” she might be told she needed loftier goals.

Girls/young women, I hope you’ll desire to be a mother. Decide to fully love and embrace that role. There are many couples today who would give just about anything to bear children and cannot. Hannah (1 Samuel 1) wept for a child and God answered with Samuel. Rachel grieved over being barren and God blessed her. “Give me children, or else I die!” was her statement to Jacob (Genesis 30:1).

In this generation the devil has fought hard to make motherhood not count for identity in women. He has convinced many that motherhood has little to do with their real contribution to this world. This is one of his clever methods for leaving God’s will out of the thoughts and plans of many young women.

If this world stands for tens of thousands of years, the word of God will not change. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.” – Matthew 24:35. What God teaches about motherhood is eternal and God-fearing people will always hold to these truths. God put a maternal urging in a woman, it is part of her makeup, and only a lot of propaganda will strip her of it. Women need to stand against a culture that has somehow diminished the value of motherhood. Young women should NEVER feel weak to declare, “What I want to be is a great mom one day.” Is motherhood something less than valued in our world? Is being a mother something a young woman needs to be counseled out of? Motherhood and homemaking is an art valued by God and provides joy and emotional health for the family.

What do we know about Paul’s mother? Of Paul’s biological mother, nothing. But in Romans 16, Paul mentions Rufus and “his mother and mine.” In this chapter Paul mentions 26 people, 6 of which were women. Women had a tremendous influence in the church. These people in Romans 16 were common Christians who give us a “snapshot” view of people in the early church. Notice “Phoebe, a servant of the Church,” Priscilla and Aquila, “my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life,” Junia, who was respected among the apostles, and was a Christian before Paul was. Then, this intriguing verse (13) “Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine.” The ESV version says, “Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well.” There is more to motherhood than the ability to bear a child. Certainly the Bible uses the word “mother” in a biological way: Genesis 3:20 calls Eve the “mother of all living.” Sometimes we hear objection to calling a man a father just because he fathered a child. People rightfully assert that it takes more to be a real father. The same applies to a mother, and Paul supports that thinking by using the term “mother” in a sentimental way that has nothing to do with birthing a child.

There’s a puzzle here. Commentators for many years have noted some facts mentioned in the Scriptures which have led them to certain conclusions about this passage. Mark’s gospel records that during the crucifixion of Jesus that the Roman soldiers compelled “a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus, as he was coming out of the country and passing by, to bear His cross.” – Mark 15:21. Then, we see the name Rufus in Romans 16:13. The belief that the “Rufus” here is the same man is based on the following evidence: 1) Mark had ties with Rome and seems to direct his gospel to a Gentile audience. 2) He uses a small Roman coin to describe the widow’s temple gift (Mark 12:42). 3) He references Alexander and Rufus as if people would know them. 4)Then Paul writes to the Romans and mentions Rufus as if the church there would know him. While this writer cannot prove it, it is altogether possible that the Rufus mentioned in Romans 16 is the same “Rufus” as the one mentioned in Mark 15:21. So…consider this scenario: Simon of Cyrene and/or his wife and their sons are converted to Christ. Simon’s widow becomes one of the many women who encouraged—mothered—Paul in his ministry. Did she “labor with him in the gospel,” did she “wash his feet?” Who lovingly applied ointment to his bloody back when he received “five times minus one” beatings for preaching the gospel? Who talked to him when the “care of all the churches” or “perils of false brethren” made him so weary and discouraged?

Women…use your God-given talent to mother your own children in God’s way, but also “mother” those around you who need your special encouragement and love!

Photo by Alexander Dummer on Unsplash