Who is Mark?

In most instances, whenever we sit down to read a book of the Bible, the author is familiar to us. When we read Exodus, we know that Moses wrote it, and are aware of his life’s story and impact. The same could be said of Ezra, Nehemiah, Peter, John, or Paul. But when we turn to the Gospel of Mark, we may not be entirely aware of who Mark was, and why he is important. However, his story offers a beautiful depiction of how the Christian life is filled with second chances and forgiveness.

Mark is first mentioned by name in the book of Acts. After God saves Peter from imprisonment, Peter seeks refuge at, “the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark” (Acts 12:12). Only thirteen verses later, in verse 35, we see Barnabas and Paul bring (John) Mark along with them on their missionary journey throughout Antioch and various other countries. The missionary journey eventually concludes, and we pick up these three men again in Acts 15:36-41. And here we see what became of Mark. At the end of their journey, Barnabas wants to bring Mark with them again on their second trip, but “Paul thought it best not to take with them [Mark] who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work” (v.38). We do not know exactly what happened, but the idea is that somewhere along the way in Pamphylia, Mark got cold feet, lazy, scared, or perhaps discouraged, and abandoned the ministry work being conducted. This action was strong enough to leave a heavy impact on Paul so much that he wanted nothing to do with him anymore. Paul even separates with Barnabas after this argument on whether or not to bring him back into the ministry. And that is where we stop hearing about Mark for a long while.

However, flip over to 2 Timothy 4:11. Much later in life, Paul tells Timothy, his young friend to, “get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.” It seems that later on down the road, Mark begins to minister again. His work becomes prosperous enough that Paul, who once wanted nothing to do with Mark, now wishes to see him again because he knows Mark will be useful for the ministry work. Isn’t that encouraging to see? That even though Mark failed at one point in his life, God helped and carried him back, and still used his gifts! And now, thousands of years later, we are reading his gospel.

Although we do not see much of Mark in the Bible, the lesson that we can learn from him is incredibly encouraging. Even though we mess up and fail, God is never done with us. We are never useless in God’s eyes, and He will use us for His kingdom’s work. No one is too far gone to be used for the kingdom of God.

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