Hello to my cousins Andronicus and Junias. We once shared a jail cell. Romans 16:7a (TM)
Most people skip over the verses at the beginning and end of the New Testament letters, when the writer is sending personal greetings. I don’t. Those little personal notes add a whole new perspective for me. They remind me that I’m not readng a "book" I’m reading a "letter" and letters are personal.
We don’t write letters much anymore. You get a sentence or two in broken, cryptic English via e-mail. You might get a card with a signature on it on birthdays and holidays. If you actually get a long, hand-written letter these days it’s a big deal. It’s special. They were special in Paul’s day, too. Few people knew how to read and write. They didn’t exactly have the USPS to pick up a letter at your home and deliver it anywhere for a few cents. The letters of the New Testament were a big deal for the senders and the recipients, and all of those names and little personal messages remind us that the letters of the New Testament were very, very personal.
I don’t know who Andronicus and Junias were – but they must have been Roman Christians – and they shared a jail cell with Paul. They were fellow prisoners. There’s a story there that sparks my imagination and adds depth to Paul’s letter to the Romans. He wasn’t writing to the city of Rome – he was writing to two guys who survived Roman prison with him. That’s intruiging.
I can see the three believers shackled to the wall of the dank prison singing The Roman Prison Blues:
I hear the legion comin’, their marching round the bend
ain’t seen the sunshine since I don’t know when
I’m stuck in Roman prison, time keeps draggin’ on
but that legion keeps a marching – down to Pergamum
When I was a baby, my momma said now son
always be a good boy – don’t get yourself stoned
but I saved a man named Philo – just to give him Life
then I went and saved his children, and his lovely wife
There’s probably rich folks eating in the vomitorium
they’re probably having orgies in the praetorium
but I know they have it comin – I know they’re just not free
When I think how lost they all are – I get down on my knees
If they freed me from this prison, if liberty was mine
I think I’d move a little farther down the line
far from Roman prison, that’s where I’d want to stay
but I’ve got the Holy Spirit – to drive my blues away!