Who was Rufus?

Who was Rufus?

Reading Time: 7 minutes

 There are some coincidences in history that may raise your eyebrow but have no significance beyond an interesting fact to share over coffee. Other coincidences may go unnoticed by most but are meaningful in the search for authenticity in the archives of history.

You have all heard of John Wilkes Booth who shot Abraham Lincoln in Ford’s Theatre on April 14th in 1865. But few of you would know the name of Lincoln’s oldest son Robert Todd. And how many of you knew that Abraham Lincoln’s son Robert Todd was traveling by train a few months before his father’s assassination when he fell onto the train tracks but was rescued by Booth? That is, Edwin Booth, brother of John Wilkes Booth.

As I said this is an interesting fact of history, but beyond that, it holds nothing vital or hidden meanings to understand the stories of the Booth brothers, the Lincoln family, or any hidden application to Lincoln’s assassination.

Now there are other coincidences in history that do hold significance and weight in their placement within historical documents. The New Testament is full of them, and I would like to share three of them with you.

In her 2017 book, Hidden In Plain View, Lydia McGrew defines undesigned coincidences as “… a notable connection between two or more accounts or tests that don’t seem to have been planned by the person or people giving the accounts. Despite their apparent independence, the items fit together like pieces of a puzzle.”1

In Matthew 14 we read the account of Herod and how he took the head of John the Baptist. John had been calling out Herod stating it was unlawful for Herod to be sleeping with his own brother’s wife Herodias. Herod put John in prison and wanted to kill him, but did not because John was so loved by the people.

On Herod’s birthday, Herodias’s daughter danced before Herod and he was so pleased with her dance he offered to give her whatever she asked for. After conferring with her mother Herodias asked Herod for the head of John the Baptist.

Sometime later we read in Matthew 14:1-2 that Herod said to his servants he thought Jesus was John the Baptist risen from the dead. “At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the news about Jesus, 2 and said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.” (NASB) How on earth would Matthew know what Herod said to his servants?

This information is similar to Mark 6:16, but Mark makes no mention of Herod talking to his servants. “But when Herod heard of it, he kept saying, ‘John, whom I beheaded, has risen!'” (NASB)

So the question raised after reading the Matthew account is how could Matthew, or any of the disciples know what Herod said to his servants? It’s not any of the disciples were related or even on speaking terms with Herod. He was a king. Herod was granted the title of ‘King of Judea’ by the Roman Senate. Herod built Masada, the harbor at Caesarea and the Temple Mount, (which he hoped would soften the Jews toward his reign). Herod would not bother himself with nomadic itinerant preachers from some kind of new religious cult.

The answer to this question can be found in Luke’s account. In Luke 7, Jesus travels to Capernaum and heals the Centurion’s servant, encounters the woman who was a sinner that kissed his feet then anointed them with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair. In Luke 7 you will also find the account of John the Baptist sending his disciples to Jesus asking if He was the One, or should they be looking for someone else. It is interesting how Jesus responded. He provided John’s disciples with evidence of healings and then told them to go back to John and report what you have seen and heard. Luke 7 is rich with familiar stories we have heard of over the years. Then Luke 8:1-3 starts with, “Soon afterward, He began going around from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God. The twelve were with Him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses: Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who were contributing to their support out of their private means.” (NASB)

There you have it. Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward was with Jesus and His disciples traveling with them and supporting their new ministry. Luke provided the answer to how Matthew or any of the disciples would know what Herod was saying about Jesus. Luke was just listing who was traveling with them and was not in anyway trying to support the detail of Matthew’s account.

A second undesigned coincidence can be found in the Gospel of John when He washed the disciple’s feet. Jesus took on the role of a servant and wanted to demonstrate to His followers what leadership in love, humility, and service should look like. Was this a planned demonstration or rather did Jesus see the need for it?

As a teacher, I often take advantages of circumstances to create a ‘teachable moment’. Students may have acted in an inappropriate way toward one another or toward another adult and I’ve needed to correct them. Maybe some teachers presenting a difficult algebra concept (you remember when they started mixing letters in with numbers) and see a real-world application to add relevance to the idea. Wise parents also see these moments and take advantage of them whenever possible. I think most who have spent any time as a believer can look back and see teachable moments or events that God used in our lives.

If you read the account of the last supper in Luke 22:24-27 you will see Luke does not even mention the foot washing, but he does touch on a lesson that tells us why He washed their feet. They began to argue among themselves who would be the greatest, the most respected, maybe at His right hand. “And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest. And He said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called Benefactors. But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves.'” (NASB)

One could say that the foot washing we find in the Gospel of John was an independent action, but the fact that Luke records their quarreling suggests otherwise. John mentions the foot washing, but Luke omits it. Luke mentions the lesson, but not the foot washing. As so often we find the Gospel accounts complement each other. Authors emphasizing different events in various ways, yet unknowingly support their independent accounts.

This is not the first time Jesus taught an object lesson. Both Mark and Matthew give an example that McGrew points out, “In Mark 9:33-37 the disciples have been debating which of them is the greatest. There, Jesus takes a child and places him in the midst of them after telling them that whoever wants to be the first among them must be the servant of all. (Compare Matt 18:1-4)”2

It should be clear that the Gospel of John and Luke share the same event but feature their own details of that night and though both accounts differ in aspects, they support each other’s narrative.

The last example has to do with Rufus. Do you ask, who is Rufus? If you were to read the crucifixion account in the three Synoptic Gospels you will find a detail mentioned in only one of the three.

Matthew 27:31-32 “After they had mocked Him, they took the scarlet robe off Him and put His own garments back on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him. As they were coming out, they found a man of Cyrene named Simon, whom they pressed into service to bear His cross.” (NASB)

Luke 23:26 “When they led Him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, coming in from the country, and placed on him the cross to carry behind Jesus. (NASB)

Then in Mark 15:20-21 you will find the following. “And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him. A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross.” (NASB)

Why mention Alexander and Rufus? Are they mentioned anywhere else in the New Testament? Were they followers of Jesus? Friends of one of the disciples? All three of Synoptic Gospels mention Simon of Cyrene, but only Mark shares that he was the father of Alexander and Rufus. Why is that?

In Romans 16:13 Paul writes, “Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too.” (NASB)

Do we have reason to believe that Mark’s Rufus is the same Rufus that Paul mentions in Romans? Paul’s connections with Rufus’ mother suggests that Rufus and his mother had gone from Rome to where Paul was since at the time Paul wrote Romans, he had never been in Rome. According to Walter Wessel, “When Paul wrote this letter, he was probably at Corinth on his third missionary journey. His work in the eastern Mediterranean was almost finished and he greatly desired to visit the Roman church. At this time, however, he could not go to Rome because he felt he must personally deliver the collection taken among the Gentile churches for the poverty-stricken Christians of Jerusalem.”3

McGrew explains, “With that fact in mind, we have three points of evidence coming together-the ‘out of nowhere’ reference to Rufus and Alexander in Mark, as though perhaps they are known to the audience of the Gospel, the references in Romans to a Rufus who was a Christian in Rome, and the tradition that Mark’s Gospel was written in Rome.”4

An argument could be made that the name Rufus was not uncommon at that time and it could be a different person, but considering the small but growing family of Christians in Rome, Mark knew who would be reading his letter first. He also understood they would know who Alexander and Rufus were.

Undesigned coincidences in the New Testament inadvertently authenticate the separate letters and perspectives we would come to expect when hearing from various eyewitness accounts. By themselves they present a cumulative case that tips the scale in favor of accurate, truthful, and historical accounts written by the New Testament authors.

In mathematics, two angles that are said to coincide fit together perfectly. The word ‘coincidence’ does not describe luck or mistakes. It describes that which fits together perfectly. – Wayne Dyer

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Who was Rufus? by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Do You Really Believe Abortion Is Wrong?

Do You Really Believe Abortion Is Wrong?

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Do you really believe abortion is the killing of an innocent human being? Then why shouldn’t women receive the death penalty or be put in prison?

I read this question for the first time when I viewed the Steve Chapman article that was mentioned on a podcast I listen to.

Concerning the pro-life voices claiming abortion is the killing of innocent human beings Steve Chapman a Chicago Tribune columnist says, “…this is a rhetorical device or a moral conceit, not a well-thought-out conviction. The vast majority of people who endorse it really don’t mean it. Even they exhibit a deep sense that a fetus has an appreciably lower status than an actual person.”((Chapman, Steve. “I don’t think abortion is murder, and neither do you.” Chicago Tribune, chicagotribune.com, 27 April 2018. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chapman/ct-perspec-chapman-abortion-murder-williamson-homicide-0429-20180427-story.html))

His point is well taken. How many Christians do you know that are vocal about abortion, claiming it is the taking of an innocent life? Then those same Christians turn around endorsing, and even supporting healing and counseling for women who have had abortions, never punishment. How many of us would say the same for a woman who killed her innocent two-year-old?

Jeanne Mancini, president of the pro-life organization March for life said, “Being pro-life means wanting what is best for the mother and the baby. Women who choose abortion often do so in desperation and then deeply regret such a decision. No pro-lifer would ever want to punish a woman who has chosen abortion. This is against the very nature of what we are about. We invite a woman who has gone down this route to consider paths to healing, not punishment.”((Peck, Bethany. “No Pro-Life American Advocates Punishment For Abortion.” March For Life, marchforlife.org, 30 March 2016. http://marchforlife.org/no-pro-life-american/))

What is up with that? How can Christians claim abortion is the killing of innocent human beings, but then do an about face and huddle around women who have had abortions and suggest counseling for healing vs a concrete cell.

What would you say to someone who pointed that out to you as Steve Chapman did in his column? Chapmen went on to argue that if you really consider abortion murder then you should agree that women who have abortions should be punished. If not, then your not being consistent in your Christian convictions. If it is murder then punish them, if not then get out of the way, give women the choice to do what they want with their own body and quit calling it murder. Chapman wrote, “About 1 of every 4 American women will have an abortion by age 45, according to the Guttmacher Institute. If you regard abortion as murder and think your sister, daughter, aunt, niece, cousin or friend should go to prison for decades — or be executed — if she ever terminated a pregnancy, you’re being consistent. If you regard abortion as murder and think they deserve a gentle path to healing, you’re not.”((Chapman, Steve. “I don’t think abortion is murder, and neither do you.” Chicago Tribune, chicagotribune.com, 27 April 2018. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chapman/ct-perspec-chapman-abortion-murder-williamson-homicide-0429-20180427-story.html))

I personally believe abortion is the killing of an innocent human being, but like virtually every other Christian I know I don’t believe women should be punished for having an abortion. Why is that? If you feel the same way can your reasoning to someone who is pro-choice?

Science is clear on when life begins. Science is also clear that at the moment of conception life begins and if left alone this new life will develop and grow into an adult human.

Should women get the death penalty for killing an innocent human being? Absolutely not, but that does not mean I don’t think abortion is the killing of an innocent human being.

Imagine if a woman is about to roll forward in her truck knowing full well that an infant is just in front of one of her tires. This woman knows the child is there. She saw the child, touched the child, heard the child. Has no doubt about the child being just in front of her tire, but goes ahead and rolls forward. None of us would consider this accidental, and everyone would agree that this woman is guilty of murdering an innocent child.

Now imagine another woman also has a child in front of one of her truck tires. We know the child is there, we see the child, touched the child, heard the child, but the woman does not believe the child is there. She is convinced, has no doubt in her mind, completely self-assured, there is nothing but dirt and gravel in front of all four tires. Rolling forward would mean rolling over dirt, gravel and other inanimate objects. Then she pulls forward killing the child.

Would we punish both women the same? Of course not, one knew full well what she was doing, the other did not.

Steve Chapman article makes us look at two questions to be considered over the abortion issue. First, is abortion morally right or morally wrong? The second question is a policy question, not an ethical question. The second question begs for guidelines once the moral question is answered. If it is decided that abortion is wrong then what should be the consequences or public policy for women and men who are guilty of committing abortion?((Shlemon, Alan. “Do Pro-Lifers Really Think Abortion Is Murder?” Audio blog post. STR Weekly Audio. STR.org, 7 June 2018. Web. 14 July 2018))

Alan Shlemon in an STR.org podcast points out that we may be able to decide on the first question, (many of us have) if abortion right or wrong, but may not be able to easily solve the second question. What to do with those who are guilty of committing abortion.((Shlemon, Alan. “Do Pro-Lifers Really Think Abortion Is Murder?” Audio blog post. STR Weekly Audio. STR.org, 7 June 2018. Web. 14 July 2018))

Keep in mind our society has already dealt with the issue of killing the unborn. Currently, we have 38 states that recognize the unborn and its status as a victim of crime and consequently punish those who have caused the death or injury of the unborn. In 2004 the ‘Unborn Victims of Violence Act‘ was passed and the U.S. recognized over 60 federal crimes of violence against the unborn. One example can be found in the Scott Peterson case where he was found guilty of double homicide 2004 of the murder of his wife Laci and his unborn son Connor. 

Shlemon points out that even if we can’t decide on a punishment for those who break the law, (if abortion was illegal) that does not mean it is ethically acceptable to have abortions. There are many considerations, motives, intent, and understanding of the actions taken. I personally believe that many women are duped into believing the unborn is nothing more than a clump of cells with little or no consideration to the growing life within them. If not coerced they are certainly encouraged in Planned Parenthood clinics throughout our nation to have the abortions.

Steve Chapman ends his article with, “If abortion is not murder, it is impossible to justify banning it, early in pregnancy or later. Women have the right to control their own bodies — have knee surgery or not, donate blood or not, go sky diving or not. The freedom to end a pregnancy is part of that physical autonomy.”((Chapman, Steve. “I don’t think abortion is murder, and neither do you.” Chicago Tribune, chicagotribune.com, 27 April 2018. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chapman/ct-perspec-chapman-abortion-murder-williamson-homicide-0429-20180427-story.html))

This is, of course, the argument pro-choice advocates have been waving for decades. Women have the right to choose, they can do what they want with their own bodies. Nonsense! Women can’t strap bombs to their body and walk in public places, women can’t consume drugs and alcohol when they choose, women can’t sell their own bodies whenever and wherever they want. We all have restrictions on our bodies and we don’t have the right to choose.

Yes, women can have knee surgery, donate blood, skydive or not, and it is pathetic Chapman would even compare abortions to that list of preferences, as if having an abortion was nothing more consequential than deciding on your flavor of ice cream for that evening. The question of what they are aborting remains. If the unborn is life, human life, growing, developing human life, and science is clear that it is, then that life has weight on the justice scale of inherent human value.

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