Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Useful Mark

Yesterday's posting might have been a bit negative, focusing on the desertion of Demas. However, as Paul continues to mention people by name in 2 Timothy 4, there is a bit of encouragement and comfort.

In the next verse, Paul writes to Timothy: 'Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.' (2 Tim 4:11) This sentence, I reckon, is very significant, and marks a development in a relationship, and indeed, a reconciliation from earlier in Paul's life and ministry.

Who is this Mark? It appears that he lived in Jerusalem, and is first mentioned in Acts 12:12, having two names, 'John, whose other name was Mark.' As Paul (then known as Saul) and Barnabas returned to Antioch, they took 'John whose other name was Mark' with them (Acts 12:25).

John Mark then left them when they had arrived in Pamphylia (Acts 13:13), while Paul and Barnabas continued their gospel work in Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and other places. However, when the time came for their next journey from Antioch, Paul and Barnabas actually fell out over whether they should take John called Mark with them.

Barnabas (son of encouragement) wanted to bring him along, but Paul wasn't having it, so there was 'a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other.' (Acts 15:37-40). Can you imagine it - two church leaders arguing over whether to give Mark another chance? Paul doesn't take Mark with him, it seems that Paul didn't think much of Mark.

But now, at the end of his life, in his final letter, Paul has a different opinion of Mark. 'Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.' From useless to useful, from deserting to devoted.

Perhaps we shouldn't write people off too soon, giving them a chance to mature and prove themselves, rather than blackballing someone straight away. A sign of grace and reconciliation, with Mark seen as vitally useful for ministry by the aged apostle.

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