Posts Tagged ‘forgiveness’

The Youth Group at Tree Lake at one time went through the Gospel of Mark. I have to admit the choice was based more on the fact that it is the smallest Gospel than any specific theme or teaching contained within. But as I studied the author, God showed me an interesting lesson … one that seems to be repeated throughout the book.

Who is Mark?

We first meet Mark in Acts 12. Harod is persecuting the church. He has killed James and saw it pleased the Jews. Emboldened, Harod arrests Peter. An angel shows up and miraculously frees Peter from prison. Once free, Peter goes to where some believers are gathered, praying for him. Verse 12 tells us that he goes to the house of Mary, the mother of John who is also called Mark.

That’s it. Pretty boring introduction. His claim to fame at this point is that the church meets in his mom’s house.

Later in Colossians 4 we learn that Mark is also the cousin of Barnabas. We know from Acts 4 that Barnabas is a Levite, the tribe of Israel who served the priests. If Barnabas is a Levite, it’s likely Mark is as well.

So, Mark is at least hereditarily a Levite, and so would have been religiously educated, and a church meets at his mother’s house. That background makes it no small surprise when we see in Acts 12 that Paul and Barnabas took him with them back to Antioch.

An interesting note: At the beginning of Acts 13 a list is given of the leaders of the church there. Mark’s name is not mentioned. He is not considered an elder, Apostle, teacher or preacher. Perhaps a devoted layman. Mark is likely one of the often unsung heroes of the church. What today would be those driving the van, serving Wednesday meals, mowing the lawn or changing the light bulbs.

Whatever his specific role (we’re not told), he was useful enough that Paul and Barnabas take him along with them on their first missionary journey (Acts 13:5) as their “assistant”.

Here’s where things take a turn. In Acts 13:13, we see that John (Mark) leaves Paul and Barnabas and returns to Jerusalem. Not Antioch. He goes home (to mama?). We’re not told why he left, but Paul’s comments on the matter in Acts 15 make it clear his departure was viewed negatively and refers to his departure as “deserting”.

In Acts 15 Paul and Barnabas are getting ready to go on a second journey to revisit the churches they founded the first time around. Barnabas wants to take Mark and Paul says no. Verse 38 says, “But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work.”

After being deserted once, it is clear Paul does not trust him to stay strong on this journey either. It is clear this was an ongoing argument for Paul and Barnabas. v38 says Paul “kept insisting”. This is something Barnabas kept bringing up, trying to change Paul’s mind.

Whether merely defending his cousin or seeing some change in Mark, Barnabas stands his ground, and this conflict causes Paul and Barnabas to part ways. v39“And there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus.”

The next we see Mark mention of is about 10 years later.

Paul is in prison in Rome and writing a letter to the Colossians. In chapter 4, verse 10, Paul is relaying some greetings from those with him. “Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, sends you his greetings; and also Barnabas’s cousin Mark (about whom you received instructions; if he comes to you, welcome him)”

In Philemon, a letter also written from prison in Rome about the same time as Colossians, Paul says, “Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow workers.”

Wait … what’s Mark doing with Paul in Rome? I thought Paul didn’t trust him.

2 Timothy is believed to be the last letter Paul wrote while awaiting execution in Rome. Among a list of those who have deserted him, Paul asks Timothy to come see him soon along with some other instructions, “Make every effort to come to me soon … Only Luke is with me. Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service.”

“Useful to me for service”? What happened?

The Deserter was Restored!

Remember, Mark went to Jerusalem when he deserted Paul and Barnabas, and who is in the church at Jerusalem? None other than Peter. We can easily assume Peter knew Mark. He was Barnabas’ cousin and the church was meeting in his mom’s house, after all.

Check out 1 Peter chapter 5. The church is under heavy persecution. Scholars date this letter to shortly before Nero burns Rome and blames the Christians. Peter is sending out a general letter for all churches as encouragement in the tough times. He sends them his greetings then says, “and so does my son, Mark.” Obviously not his biological son, but his son in the faith. Peter had taken Mark under his wing and discipled him.

So, who was Mark?Apostle? Preacher? Teacher? Leader? NO.

Just a devoted helper who had been redeemed. A behind the scenes guy who folded when the going got tough. However, God took his situation and placed him at the side of the man who is considered one of, if not the, closest friend to Jesus while He walked the earth.

And it was to this “helper” of Apostles that God entrusted the role of author for one of His gospels. Matthew was an Apostle. So was John. Luke went step in step with Paul through much of his journeys and is a recognized leader in his own right. Likewise, the other books of the New Testament were written by people who were leaders and authorities in The Church.

But not Mark.

Our culture loves to hold up the celebrity, the popular, the smart, the powerful. Our praise and our thoughts tend automatically to the out front person, the “leader of the band”.

We also tend to not bear with failure very well. We see a “recovering alcoholic” and focus more on the “alcoholic” than the “recovering”. We hold on to lingering questions and doubts about someone who has, in the past, been less honorable than we are comfortable with … even if they seem to be an example of integrity today.

But is that how God views us? Is that how God treats our “recovery”? While our minds want to leap to an emphatic, “NO!”, our hearts hesitate. We see our own failures and faults and we think, “Well, I may be forgiven, maybe even a little better than I was … but if people only knew.”

Often we are our harshest critic. Our attitudes can go beyond humility into a negative self image. Our acknowledgement of sin can turn into guilt and shame.

We know the verses:

Psalm 103:12

“As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.”

1 John 1:9

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Romans 8:1

“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

However, for some reason we continue to believe the Enemy’s lies instead. Let Mark be our example. A man who came from obscurity. A man who fled the hard work of the Lord for the comforts of the familiar. A man who never held a position of leadership or authority or did anything of note that we are aware of.

Despite all of that, God redeemed him, and this seemingly timid nobody was selected by God to be His instrument for telling the Gospel. It was through this man, once cast aside by Paul, that millions of people were able to know of Jesus Christ and the freedom he bought for us on the cross.

The next time we feel shame, fear, and like a nobody, remember, God uses small, fearful nobodies, and even our most shameful actions can be redeemed.

Other videos from this event:

Other videos from this event: