Next, we get another band of hard-working ladies, and also another hidden romantic story, Verses 12-13:
Give my greetings to Tryphena and Tryphosa, the Lord’s workers, and to dear Persis, who has worked so hard for the Lord. Greet Rufus, whom the Lord picked out to be his very own; and also his dear mother, who has been a mother to me. (Romans 16:12-13)
I don’t know, but these words of Paul open up hidden vistas that bring the whole new flavor and color of this Christian life home to us. First we have Tryphaena and Tryphosa. I can just imagine them cutting a sewing and mixing and baking, these dear sisters worked very hard. We don’t know what they did, and when I mention “sewing” and “baking,” may sound a little sexist, but there is a delicate irony here. When Paul wrote this he probably smiled to himself, because their names mean “dainty” and “delicate”—yet it says they were hard workers. Was this their real names, or just “nicknames”? I don’t know, but their names suggest that they were probably aristocrats, women who were born to a high class and although they did not have to work for a living, they worked hard in the service of the Lord! That is cool!
Paul also sends his greetings to someone named Persis. Now, we know anything about her other than that she too had worked with him somewhere, maybe traveling in his company of evangelists. In the 13th verse we have Rufus, “chosen in the Lord,” and his mother who, I am guessing, a very loving, “Grandmotherly” type and treated Paul like one of her own children.
Then there is Rufus. I don’t think there is any doubt that Rufus, along with his brother Alexander, are mentioned in the Gospel of Mark, were the sons of Simon of Cyrene. In the Gospels we are told that as our Lord was making his way down the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, he was so weak from loss of blood that he tripped and fell. The Roman soldiers grabbed a passing stranger and compelled to carry the cross to Calvary. That man was Simon of Cyrene, a Jew coming into the city for the Passover. His home was in North Africa, and he evidently had little or no interest in the things of Christ until he was forced to carry the cross of Jesus. Although we don’t know all the details, evidently he became a Christian and there is a hint in the book of Acts that he was present on the day of Pentecost.
His two sons, Alexander and Rufus, became outstanding men in the Christian community. In Acts we read about an “Alexander” who comes to the rescue of Paul in Ephesus. There is a “Rufus” here in Rome, who is well known, and Paul sends his greetings to him, and reminds him also that Rufus’ mother treated him like one of her own. Well, we can go back to the earliest days of the gospel when a young Saul of Tarsus came to Jerusalem to study with Gamaliel, the great Jewish teacher. During this time he had probably stayed in the home of Simon of Cyrene and his two sons, Alexander and Rufus. Later they became Christians, and Paul cherished them as friends he had known even before his own Christian days. Oh, I know that we can’t be certain of all of this, but a lot of it is suggested by Paul’s greetings.
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Letter to Christians at Rome