Greet Prisca and Aquila, who work with me in Christ Jesus, and who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert in Asia for Christ. Greet Mary, who has worked very hard among you. Greet Andronicus and Junia, my relatives who were in prison with me; they are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our co-worker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys. Greet Apelles, who is approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the family of Aristobulus. Greet my relative Herodion. Greet those in the Lord who belong to the family of Narcissus. Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord. Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; and greet his mother—a mother to me also. Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers and sisters who are with them. Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. Greet one another with a holy kiss. – Romans 16:3-16
Paul ends his letter to the Romans by greeting the Romans, that is by telling the readers to, “Say hey for me” to these various persons. Most of the final chapter of the epistle is just a list of obscure names. Look for a minute at the list. Paul actually begins with Phoebe in verse 1, then in our passage he lists Prisca and Aquila, the fellow tent-makers we know from 1 Corinthians. Here Paul tells us both that they took great risks for him and that a church is housed in their home. Paul then mentions Epaenetus from Asia and Mary, the hard worker. He remembers Andonicus and Junia who became special to Paul during their joint imprisonment. Then Paul simply drops the names of a whole group of people, the most interesting of whom may be Tryphaena and Tryphosa. We assume they were twins. Then Paul continues his list until he finally gets to Olympas.
The list seems endless and deadly for the most part. Perhaps we usually just gloss over such lists; however, there is something wonderfully important about a list like this. It reminds us that when all is said and done, the gospel message is incredibly personal. The scriptures tell us that God knows us by name and that God calls us by name. Perhaps you remember in John’s Gospel that Lazarus came to life when Jesus called him by name, and Mary Magdalene did not recognize the risen Christ until he called her by name. And here, after Paul lays out a carefully crafted theological treatise, he greets and calls specific individuals in the fledgling church by name.
We may not read the lists when we come across them in scripture, but the inclusion of the names of these individuals, who both found new life in Christ and lived out that faith in authentic ways, assures us that our lives, our faith, and our witness are not without meaning. God knows us by name.
Lord, remind me that in your kingdom I am not a nobody. You have bought me at a price; you know me by name; and I am yours. Amen.
A Bible study devotional by Gorman Houston