New Testament minor figure, John Mark

  • Acts 12:25, 13:5, 15:35-11
  • Colossians 4:10
  • 2 Timothy 4:11
  • 1 Peter 5:13

In the judgement of many, the Gospel of Mark is the first of the Gospel accounts. The Gospel accounts attributed to Mark, Luke and John do not include the names of the writers. However, there is one incident recorded which may actually include John Mark in the Gospel of Mark. The account surrounds the arrest of Jesus our Lord and the forsaking of the disciples, Mark 14:51 Now a certain young man followed Him, having a linen cloth thrown around his naked body. And the young men laid hold of him, 52 and he left the linen cloth and fled from them naked. While of course his name is not mentioned it is generally held to have been John Mark.

After the death of Jesus, James was arrested and killed and Peter also was arrested and kept in prison, with the same plan for him. The church was in constant prayer. The night before Herod was about to fulfill his wicked plan Peter, assisted by an angel, escaped from the two soldiers he was bound to with chains and walked past two doors guarded by soldiers into the streets. He went to Mary, the mother of John Mark home where the church was gathered as they prayed for Peter. This house may have been the site of the last supper as Mark described it. Mark 14:14 “Wherever he goes in, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, “Where is the guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?”‘ 15 “Then he will show you a large upper room, furnished and prepared; there make ready for us.”

John Mark first appears during the partnership of Paul and Barnabas as they were taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles. The church was transforming into a worldwide influence. While the Holy Spirit fell on Cornelius the Greco-Roman church was, first called Christians in Antioch, Acts 11:26. It is note-worthy Peter never called Cornelius the first gentile Christian convert. Mark came to Antioch with his cousin Barnabas Colossians 4:10. Paul, Barnabas and John Mark would work there, and later Paul and Barnabas decided to extend their work and shortly thereafter Mark would leave the two and proceed home to Jerusalem.

After what appeared to be about a 18-month missionary journey to the area of Central Asia Minor (modern turkey) Paul and Barnabas returns to Antioch for about an additional year. As they traveled, they imparted the same message, all had sin, God sent a Savior Jesus the Christ to all, (Jew & Gentile) needed to repent and be baptized. By the end of this journey the inclusion of Gentiles had become a major factor among Jewish Christians. Some Jewish Christians was pushing a Gospel on the Gentiles that was no gospel at all Galatians 1:6-7 and Paul would spend the rest of this life defending the Gentile Christians against the Judaizing teachers’ unreasonable demands.

Upon satisfactory discussion of the issue of Gentile Christians and the agreement of the Apostles in Jerusalem a letter was written showing that agreement. Paul and Barnabas was preparing another missionary journey to strengthen the Churches among the gentiles. A sharp contention arose between Paul and Barnabas concerning including John Mark on this new journey. Paul and Silas would set out on a trip which would eventually land them in Greece. Barnabas and John Mark sailed west to the churches in Cyprus. What appeared to be a serious dispute God and Godly men had doubled the efforts of the Church.

The Book of Acts included nothing more of the journey of Barnabas and John Mark. Paul would speak highly of Mark in the letters of Colossians 4:10, 2 Timothy 4:11, and Philemon 24. Peter would write, 1 Peter 5:13 She who is in Babylon, elect together with you, greets you; and so does Mark my son. Here is an example of a young man who grew into the service of the Lord with the help of his extended family and the grace of the Lord. Our list of minor figures has not been one of less important figures. Indeed Lydia, Zaccheus, Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea and Dorcas rendered great service for the Lord of which little was written. While some of the works accomplished in the New Testament were mightily written about, I dare say most work within the church is performed by individual Christians doing what they could with the opportunity and devotion to the Lord they possessed.

There is much to learn from the journeys of Paul, Barnabas and John Mark. Perhaps the best lesson concerns the way to handle the strife and or contentions that inevitably arises among dedicated servants of the Lord. The bible simply offers the statement of the strife between Paul and Barnabas, but not condemnation of either. Both men used their own commitment and wisdom to the cause of Christ to double the efforts of each in His service. As far as we know there was no personal bitterness between the two.

The church in various places has been hurt by the petty antics of a few self-seeking Christians seeking to have their way. Christian do not harbor grudges they put their differences behind them and double their efforts to serve the risen Lord.

Questions:

  1. In what incident, recorded only in Mark, might the author appear?
  2. Describe the relationship of Mark to Mary in whose house the Disciples met.
  3. In what Greco-Roman city did Gentile Christianity first take root?
  4. Where did Paul and Barnabas go for help to solve the problem of Jewish Christian teachers?
  5. How were Mark and Barnabas related?
  6. Why did Paul tell Timothy he wanted John Mark to join him during his imprisonment at Rome?
  7. What was the issue Paul was confronting in the Antioch Church and among the Gentiles?
  8. What should Christians learn from the disagreement between Paul and Barnabas?
  9. What is the results of bitterness in the Church?
  10. What should result from disagreement among Christians? What help might a Church offer?