Have you ever slipped? Did you have moments when you felt you just could not go on? Did you withdraw? Were you ready to throw in the towel? Did you lose your way?
If so, you might be surprised to learn that you would not have been alone. Many great heroes in the Bible experienced feelings of doubt, frustration, disappointment and disillusionment. What matters in such moments is how we deal with them. Remember, even the righteous may fall seven times and rise again (Proverbs 24:16). True friends can help in the process.
One of the great inspired writings in God’s Word is the gospel record of Mark. Even though the Bible does not specifically say that Mark penned the account, numerous documents from the early Church unanimously identify him as the author, and they tell us that it was Peter who more or less dictated the account to Mark (compare 1 Peter 5:13, where Peter calls Mark affectionately “my son”). Mark was actually the Roman surname of his Hebrew name John, and Peter had known Mark or John Mark for a long time (Acts 12:12). It seemed that Mark had significant contact with Peter and the other leaders within the Jerusalem church. Mark might have been the “certain young man” who left his linen cloth and fled naked from the soldiers when Christ was arrested (Mark 14:51-52).
Mark was a cousin of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10). He accompanied Paul and Barnabas on their early missionary travels (Acts 12:25). Later, Paul referred to Mark as one of his fellow laborers (Philemon 23-24), who was useful to him in the ministry (2 Timothy 4:11).
But after Paul and Barnabas had been ordained as apostles and went on a missionary journey, John Mark decided not to continue with them on their journey, but to return to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). We are not told why Mark made this decision, and we can surmise from other passages that Paul was not pleased with Mark’s conduct. It is implied in Scripture that for whatever unknown reasons, Mark was not willing to fulfill the need of the Work at the time. And so we read that on a later occasion, a strong controversy arose between Paul and Barnabas over Mark and his prior departure.
Acts 15:36-41 states: “Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.’ Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.”
However, the Bible does not specifically comment on who was to blame for this rather strong contention and the subsequent parting of the ways between Paul and Barnabas. When reading between the lines and considering other passages, it appears that Barnabas was correct in trying to give Mark another opportunity. Barnabas was a very compassionate man, “a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith” (Acts 11:24), and it was he who brought Paul to the early apostles, who were concerned about Paul’s true conversion, due to his prior terrible acts (Acts 9:26-27). So it appears that Paul could and should have followed Barnabas’ example and grant the same mercy to Mark, which he himself had received. But we know that later, Paul and Mark worked together again, and as we have seen, Mark became a fellow laborer in the Work and useful to Paul’s ministry.
Let us assume for a moment that things had turned out differently; that both Paul and Barnabas had refused to take Mark with them on further travels; that Mark had become deeply disappointed with them, and as a consequence, that he had even forsaken the faith.
For one, he would not have used the information received from Peter to pen his gospel record, and we would not have today important information about the ministry of Jesus Christ. Mark would not have been a useful tool in God’s ministry, undoubtedly helping some, if not many, to come to the true faith.
Fortunately, Mark did not give up. He continued in the faith. He did not harbor any grudges against Paul, and he did not allow a spirit of resentment and lack of forgiveness to settle in his mind. Rather, he became one of the giants in the Bible.
Have you ever felt like giving up? Are you feeling like that right now? If so, think of Mark. He repented of what he might have done wrong, and pressed forward toward the goal of eternal life in the Kingdom of God. He did not allow anything or anyone to stand in the way. And that is what we must do… always…