Key Verse: Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry. 2 Timothy 4:11
There are few things worse than being left down my a close friend when you need them the most.
John Mark was brought up in a house of prayer. In Acts 12:12, we read that after Peter was miraculously rescued from prison “he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying.” As a young man, he was surrounded by the greatest of the New Testament church. He would have grown to know the real men away from the public. He would have listened to their stories of their time with Jesus. He would have heard their prayer requests and struggles.
I can imagine John Mark, on the edge of his seat, one day dreaming that He too would be able to fulfill this great commission, traveling throughout the world, preaching the gospel. His uncle was Barnabas, and so after the Paul and Barnabas were appointed to go on their missionary journey, John Marks opportunity arrived. Acts 13:5 says, “When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John was with them as their helper.” He was given the opportunity to work behind the scenes, taking care of things so that Paul and Barnabas could focus on ministry. What an opportunity! Most of us would jump and the change to be at the cutting edge of what God is doing in world missions.
But something happened. Eight verses later we read in Acts 13:13, “From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem.” The word translated as “left,” in the original means “to desert”; It means to leave in a negative way and to willfully abandon. Why he left we don’t know. Maybe He was homesick. Possibly he missed his wealthy lifestyle at home with servants to meet his needs. Maybe he preferred to be served upon than to serve. Or perhaps he faced the problem that many young missionaries, church planters, and pastors face, unrealistic expectations. He expected every moment to be times of miracles and revival. He was expecting all the setting up of chairs, waiting around and normal everyday moments.
Whatever the reason, Acts 15:37-39 says that sometime later, “Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company.”
Whatever had happened, Paul thought that he had messed up too bad the first time and was not prepared to give him a second chance. Maybe you’ve made one or more mistakes that have left enduring limitations in your life. One mistake that keeps coming back to haunt you. John Mark probably thought that he had missed his chance and it was all over. Well in Paul’s view it was, but in Barnabas’ and God’s view, there is always a second chance.
In the years that follow, John Mark proves himself over and over again. Paul forgives him and goes on to recommend him to others (see Colossians 4:10 & 2 Timothy 4:9-11). John Mark had wondered if he would ever have another chance to fulfill his calling and be involved in ministry, now even Paul is saying, “He’s useful to me.” From John Marks life we can take encouragement that failing in ministry does not erase the possibility of future use. People may give up on us, but God never will.
John Mark is also the author was the gospel of Mark. The most translated book of the Bible in all the world. What a turnaround for a man who gave up on his first missionary calling. All of us who have failed, but by God’s strength, we can get back up and keep serving.