Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” 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. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
– Acts 15:36-41
Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
– Philemon 1:23-25
My name is Mark, as the blogsite title suggests. I once asked my mother why I was named Mark. There is the oft-told joke about “Is Mark your name or are you imitating a hair-lipped dog?” (Sorry if that offended anyone, but I thought I had heard the last of the joke in grade school. Adults can be cruel, too.) Between the given name and family name, there are those harsh “K” sounds. Okay, if you love the sound, it may not seem harsh. To me, it did.
In answering my question, my mother shrugged. She said, “I don’t know. I kind of liked the name.” Her answer did not give me any warm fuzzy feeling. My brother and sister had names with namesakes in the family.
Then I studied the book of Acts and Acts 13:13 jumped out at me. “From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem.” Of course, the John in question was John Mark as the first Scripture above mentions. So, Mark is the reason that Paul and Barnabas departed company. This may have contributed greatly to the spread of the Gospel. Paul did his thing and Barnabas did another thing. If they were together, the Word would have not spread as quickly, but John Mark is portrayed here as a weakling, a disappointment.
Is that why my mother was always driving me to be more like my Dad or my brother, to be a macho man? Was I a weakling and disappointment, like my namesake?
But let’s look at John Mark a little further. It is possible, and many theologians suggest, that Mark mentioned himself in the Gospel that he authored. Mark 14:51-52 states, “A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.” This has me torn regarding self-esteem versus my name. For one, is this really John Mark? On one side, this young man was brave enough to follow close enough to get caught. Peter didn’t follow that close. On the positive side, we could add that this young man invented streaking. Can I hear a chorus of Ray Stevens’ The Streak? “Oh yes they call him the Streak. He likes to show off his physique. If there’s an audience to be found, he’ll be streakin’ around, invitin’ public critique.”
Okay, second apology. Mentioning ‘streaking’ amidst the story of Jesus’ arrest, might be considered flippant to some.
But that brings up the negative. He streaked. He deserted Paul and Barnabas. He was not trustworthy.
But wait. Barnabas trusted him. Then again, according to Colossians 4:10, Mark is the cousin of Barnabas. But wait again, Colossians 4:10 says that Mark sends his greetings along with Paul who is in prison. Mark is with Paul. Does this mean that Paul changed his mind about Mark? In 2 Timothy 4:11, Paul asks Timothy to bring Mark with him because Mark has become important to Paul in his ministry.
As for writing the earliest of the Gospels (as most experts think), there are two thoughts on that. Mark either wrote the Gospel as Peter dictated or Mark wrote the Gospel as a compilation of notes taken from Peter’s sermons. In either case, it is thought that Peter is the source of the information, at least the details. If Mark wrote the Gospel based on Peter’s sermons, it might explain why things might not be the same order as the other synoptic Gospels. But it is thought that Matthew and Luke used Mark as an outline that they expanded upon.
As for the eyewitness account, Peter was the eyewitness while John Mark may have been an eyewitness, as a youth, to a lot of the ministry of Jesus, especially in Jerusalem. It is thought that Mark’s mother’s home is the location of the Last Supper, and it was the location of the gatherings of the disciples / Apostles when they were in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12).
Okay, let’s look at a brief summary of the history of John Mark. He did not distinguish himself well when he streaked away from the guards, allegedly. He went home to Mama instead of sticking it out with Paul and Barnabas, but maybe that’s when he went home and started putting the Gospel of Mark together, listening to Peter. Then Barnabas showed loyalty to Mark, forsaking Paul. Then Paul sees Mark’s education and ability to read and write as an asset. Mark becomes useful to Paul.
Could we say, “Mark is redeemed”? Paul forgives Mark, and Mark becomes a trusted, and even valued, member of Paul’s team. As the Philemon reference above states, a fellow worker – not just a scribe in the corner.
Maybe my name isn’t so bad after all. It is about like any other name of a true believer. We stumble. We make mistakes. We do some of our mistake making at public times, and we become embarrassed and ashamed. Then we realize that Jesus loves us so much that He died for us while we were still an embarrassment – a sinner. Jesus paid the price for that. Now, we move forward as a ‘fellow worker’.
Yep. I think my mother named me pretty well. I only pray that I can measure up to my namesake.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.