For the most part when I look at who I want to highlight in the Bible I look for uncommon men who provide an uncommon lesson that just makes sense when it clicks. Sometimes, like today I look at the life of a well known man from the Bible. In fact, how about someone who wrote Bible? How amazing is that?! The life of John Mark or as we refer to him, Mark was much like our own. He was young at one time, thought he knew best and…well let’s dive in to see how that worked out for him.
John Marks beginnings start in Luke’s book Acts 12:12 where we find that he is the son of a woman named Mary. His mother was prominent in the Jerusalem church and it was not uncommon that their home was a meeting place for some of the congregation. We also know from Colossians that he was the cousin to Barnabas, a traveling companion of Paul. So here we have John Mark (JM), the son of a committed family to the church and cousin to the traveling companion of Paul who made it his life’s mission to bring God’s word to the gentiles. He was in some pretty amazing spiritual company you know?
John Mark’s Departure
We find that John Mark was the helper to Barnabas and Paul’s very first journey to spread the message Christ gave them (Acts 13:5). This great journey for JM was not all ups with no downs. Instead, after their visit in Cyprus he left Paul and Barnabas to return to Jerusalem (Acts 13:4-13). The Bible doesn’t say why or what caused this departure but it was a cleaving point in Paul’s mind. He and Barnabas continued their journey to Antioch, Iconium and to Lystra where Paul was stoned and thought dead but rose when the disciples around him were to pray. The next day and went to Derbe to speak God’s word. This dude’s work ethic puts us all to shame!
A Second Chance
Barnabas is called the “son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36) and he did just that when Paul and he were planning their next mission trip from Jerusalem. He made a case for JM to come along again but Paul was having none of it. They had a “sharp disagreement” and parted ways. Paul took Silas and headed towards Syria. Barnabas took JM and headed across the sea to Cyprus (Acts 15:36-41). We don’t hear much about John Mark after this which leaves us to wonder if God had given him a chance at redeeming himself or if he was a lost cause. Does Paul continue to hold him at arms length after his desertion in Cyprus?
God is really good. We step away from Him purposefully and knowingly and yet He is always there for us. What of John Mark? Does he deserve that unchanging grace? Of course he does and if we look at Paul’s letters later in his life, around fifteen years from the sharp disagreement he had with Barnabas, we see a softening of heart in Paul. In Colossians 4:10-11 we see Paul tell the church in Colossae to welcome John Mark and that John Mark has been a comfort to him.
Paul continues to place JM close to his heart as he describes him as a fellow worker in Philemon 1:23-24. His final note to Timothy is one showing his adoration for John Mark as he tells Timothy to “Get Mark…because he is helpful to me in my ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:11).
John Mark’s life is proof that the early hiccups you have in life are not a death sentence to separate you from the glory of God. He is righteous and forgiving. We are so easy to look at our stumbles and become crestfallen over them that we don’t see the work God has prepared for us.
John Mark did two great things and he may have only been aware of one of them. He wrote Bible and that is the easiest one for us to see and discern. Yet if we look back we can see that the separation of Paul and Barnabas did great work because now there were two strong teams out spreading the word to the gentiles.
We know God’s long game, He has put it directly into writing for us. We should be focusing on what is right in front of us because our faith in the work of Christ has cemented our salvation by God’s decree. There is no refund on that glory, there is no loss of that redemption. Instead dust yourself off and do what John Mark did. He seized that chance in life and set the world on fire for God.