It is easy, when reading the Scriptures, to sometimes become discouraged at lists of names, such as the passage at the end of Romans. There are so many questions we have that aren’t answered in the book, but we do know that Paul gave honorable mention to Epaineton, Junian, and Apliaston, whoever they were. If we’re not careful, these lists will come to read like the Scriptural equivalent of an Oscar acceptance speech. We’re waiting for the music to play so it’ll end.
But if we read carefully we’ll discover two things. First, we must remember that our Scriptures were written to real people, who had real lives, and loved Jesus. The documentation of their names reminds us that these first century people, although most of them had never seen Jesus in the flesh, had committed their lives to this obscure Jewish sect. Their presence in the Scriptures should give us hope, because they are people, just like us, seeking to love the the Lord.
But secondly, when we read carefully we can discover some surprises. Take Rufus, for example, in verse 13. Where have we heard this name before? Why, is it not from the Gospel of Mark, where Simeon is commissioned to carry Jesus’ cross? Don’t we learn there that Simeon is the father of Alexander and Rufus? And here is Rufus again! And his presence in this passage should strengthen our faith, because those who first believed in Jesus did not follow a fickle faith, but one that was grounded in the eyewitness testimony of those who had seen, heard, and touched the life of Jesus Christ, the Risen Lord.