From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem. Acts 13:13
Acts Chapter 13 tells the story of Paul’s first missionary journey to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. With him are Barnabas, formerly known as Joses, and John Mark, Barnabas’ cousin and their assistant on this journey. Their first stop was on the island of Cyrus where they eventually made their way to Paphos. As Paul and Barnabas made their way to their next port of call, for some reason John Mark resisted God’s call and did not continue on with them. Commentators posit that John Mark, being a young man, was homesick and not prepared for life in the ministry quite yet. Whatever the cause, John Mark abandoned Paul and Barnabas and went home.
Sometime 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. 41 He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. Acts 15:36-41 (NIV)
A Second Chance
When it was time to revisit the churches, Barnabas, who apparently had forgiven John Mark for resisting God’s call earlier, wanted him to accompany them, but Paul, remembering John Mark’s unfaithfulness on their first trip, considered him to be unreliable and, not only refused to accept him, but also went so far as to choose another companion for the mission field and part company with Barnabas. Also, the line “commended by the believers” seems to indicate that Paul had support from others with regards to his decision.
Everyone has failures in their Christian life and times of resisting God’s call, but we know that God gives more than just a second chance to return to the path He has laid out and welcomes us with open arms when we are no longer resisting God’s call, as in the parable of the Prodigal Son. That’s why I love the Bible. But, unfortunately, others may still see us through the lens of the past and consider us only as good as our last failure. This happens not only with unbelievers but with our Christian brothers and sisters who should understand and practice grace much better than they do.
We know that John Mark later went on the write the book of Mark, one of the four synoptic gospels, chronicling the Biblical wisdom of Jesus’ ministry, that eventually made its way into the greatest story ever written, God’s holy word. Obviously, John Mark stopped resisting God’s call eventually. God had a plan for John Mark and it didn’t include being sidelined forever by the failure of a young man unprepared for life on the road as an itinerant preacher. It seems that John Mark did indeed stay the course after a course correction, and even made an impact on Paul that changed his mind also.
Perhaps even Paul was guilty of resisting God’s call to take John Mark under his wing. The interesting thing is, Paul was the poster boy for a changed life and a second chance since he was blessed with one of the biggest transformations in the entire Bible, and, as a result, wrote the words that have encouraged and changed lives down through the centuries and is still considered to be, perhaps, the greatest disciple that ever lived and the most prolific author in the New Testament.
Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. 2 Timothy 4:9-11 (ESV)
Once we stop resisting God’s call, sometimes our toughest critics can turn out to be our biggest supporters, even if they need a little proof.