Be diligent to come to me quickly; for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica—Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry. And Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come—and the books, especially the parchments.
Good morning friends. Prior to this letter from Paul to Timothy, very little is known of John Mark (referred to as Mark in our opening verses) before the quarrel between Paul and Barnabas. Some theologians claim that he was in fact a nephew of Barnabas; which probably explains Barnabas’ position on Mark’s involvement in subsequent missionary exploits. See below Luke’s account of their wrangling:
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.
Both men had their views, they agreed to disagree, but the work continued. Interestingly, this same Barnabas was one of the first people who received Paul with open arms after his damascene conversion. You will recollect that Saul (as he was first known) was involved in the brutal killing of Stephen by Joint Enterprise, due to his role as a key instigator. Shortly afterwards, he secured a mandate from the authorities for the persecution of other Christians. So, with a track record like his, most Christians then were not warm towards him. In fact, Ananias was initially reluctant in responding to the prompt by God to visit and restore Paul’s sight, after he lost it due to the heavenly lights that he saw on that faithful day.
Barnabas was to demonstrate similar faith in Mark, at a time when his reputation had hit an all time low. He saw what took Paul many times to see, he saw in Mark a man with a willing spirit but a weak flesh. He knew that with a bit more prayer, encouragement, coaching and mentoring; Mark had the potential of eventually becoming very within the ranks of God’s army. Hence Paul’s desperate plea to Timothy for reinforcement from none other than once AWOL soldier – John Mark! His letter to Timothy captures it with these words:
…Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry.
As for Mark, he owed it all to the man who stood by him when no one thought anything of him, to a man who believed in him in-spite of his shortcomings. If he were a footballer, he would have dedicated his golden boots to coach Barnabas! So, dear friends, allow me to crystallise this thought with a statement from our; Chief Rabbi, High Priest, King and Captain of our salvation – Jesus Christ:
… For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.
Barnabas’ high risk investment in Mark yielded some really healthy dividends over time. So hold on! Your labour of love will be rewarded someday soon.