Wednesday, March 19, 2008

And Are We Being Too Hard on John Mark?

(Also see previous post)

The other related point is that John Mark usually is painted as a quitter, because it says in Acts 13:13, "and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem." Of course, the fact that Paul didn't want to take him along on the next journey (Acts 15:36-40) seems to add a deeper tone of negative color to his decision.

Seems to. But once again, the premise is: We can't be sure.

The Bible's silence on John Mark's reason for returning to Jerusalem cannot be implied as condemnation. The Scriptures neither say "John was led of the spirit to return to Jerusalem" nor "John gave up the work of the spreading of the gospel." He is only mentioned twice again in Scripture: In Acts 15, where he may not have been present at the dispute; and in 2 Timothy 4:11, where Paul desires his company many years later. (If Col. 4:10 is referring to him also, then he was the nephew of Barnabas. This would also add some information about the dispute.)

Furthermore, it is possible—although the Bible is silent about this, too, so we should classify it as speculation—that John Mark had indeed quit, but later repented; and that Barnabas for this reason thought it good to bring him with them on a second missionary journey. Presumably he wanted to go with Barnabas and Saul (if he didn't, the dispute becomes foolish).

I already discussed that both Paul and Barnabas were strong-willed leaders. If John Mark was indeed Barnabas' nephew, that would also add another layer to the disagreement between Paul and Barnabas. [Aside: We who are Baptist have probably all seen disputes involving a pastor, one of his relatives, and someone else in the church—regardless of who was right in the dispute. Nepotism seems to be universal.]

In short, it seems reasonable that John Mark may have quit, but we cannot be certain; it is equally reasonable that if he did quit, he repented and wanted to go again; and if we know anything, it is that in later life he was a useful servant of God. The moral of the story: We need to be careful about condemning John Mark in this situation. Perhaps he was wrong. But we do not know...and as Christians, we must be careful about passing judgment when we are not in possession of adequate knowledge of the facts of the matter.

Didn't I say that once before?

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