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Few Heroes
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  John Mark

1. Surrounded by the Faith.

Acts 12:12
When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying.

"Mark" was his Roman name whilst "John" was his Jewish name. Son of Mary who was a woman of apparent means and influence. He was probably born in Jerusalem where his mother lived. And was the cousin of Barnabas.

Colossians 4:10
My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.)

When the believers gathered in Acts 12:25 to pray they did so in his mother's house. It is possible that there he met and was converted by the apostle Peter, who later referred to him as his son.

Acts 12:25
When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission, they returned from Jerusalem, taking with them John, also called Mark.

1 Peter 5:13
She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark.

The first mention of Mark is most likely to be as the young man who ran away naked when Jesus was arrested.

Mark 14:51-52
51 A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him,
52 he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.

(Since his anonymity was maintained by the writer yet the event was included). The expensive linen garment suggests that he was from a wealthy background. A passage like this one reminds us that the Bible really is true. It is a detail that only an eyewitness would remember. It is embarrassing, and yet it is included-not the kind of thing someone would make up. When we die, we will see God face to face. He will judge us for our lives. Let's be grateful for His eternal truth He has given us in the Bible, and let us learn from ordinary human beings like John Mark.

2. Opted out of the mission

Acts 12:25-13:5
25 When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission, they returned from Jerusalem, taking with them John, also called Mark.
13:1 In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul.
2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them."
3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
4 The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus.
5 When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John was with them as their helper.

In A.D. 47 Mark went on the first missionary journey with Paul and Barnabas. It must have been so exciting to be part of that first mission team. Everyone in the church must have told him how proud they were of him. He must have felt so inspired as he stood side by side with Paul and Barnabas, ready to go and change the world. He must have had high hopes for his future as he left Antioch. But things did not turn out as he had planned.

Acts 13:13
From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem.

For some reason Mark left them in Perga and returned home to Jerusalem. The Scriptures do not tell us why. Was Mark a wealthy young man who was put off by the self-denial and hardships likely to be encountered on the mission field? Did he have some other duty he considered more pressing? Perhaps he was simply homesick-he missed his mother and father. He missed the food he was used to back home, his old friends, his familiar surroundings.

Acts 15:36-41
36 Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing."
37 Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them,
38 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.
39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus,
40 but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord.
41 He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

Three years later Paul and Barnabus had a sharp disagreement since Paul did not want to take Mark with them. Barnabas believed in his cousin.

Colossians 4:10
My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.)

But Paul still remembered how he had deserted them. Barnabas held a more sentimental view (not a surprising course of action for the "Son of Encouragement"). They both had such strong convictions about this issue that they parted company and Barnabus left with his cousin Mark.

This passage tells us that it was Paul who was commended by the brothers (v.40). He was right to be hard-line on John Mark. There are times when we must make tough decisions to help people grow up in the Lord. We must stand by each other and believe in each other, as Barnabas did for John Mark. Yet we must also call each other to repentance. Up to this point Paul and Barnabus worked closely together, but after this point Paul worked with Silas. Barnabas is never heard from again in the rest of Scripture. But John Mark eventually repented and was able to contribute in a great way, as we shall read later.

Why do we opt out of the mission?

a. Distractions - job, marriage, family can take us away from the mission rather than figuring out how to be effective in our situation. We must always remember the words of Jesus, that if we seek first God's kingdom He will take care of the rest.

b. Lack of faith - we have had some defeats and we no longer trust that God is with us so we are fearful of stepping out. Think about a significant defeat that you have faced as a disciple. Are you as zealous now as you were before that defeat? Or did it discourage you permanently?

c. Unconfessed sin - things we have done wrong are bothering us and we don't feel free. Sometimes we don't feel saved. We read in 1 John 1:9 that "if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."

d. Desire for comfort. We no longer have the motivation to push ourselves. We are growing older, a little less physically fit, a little jealous of peers with more money and a nicer life. So we choose the path of least resistance.

e. Chaotic life - We have not figured out how to organise our lives, so our lives run us. We hop from one crisis to another, with no time for the lost. If this is you, take out some time to plan your schedule. Include time with the Lord. Include time specifically set aside to reach out to others. Remember, "it is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).

f. Desire to preserve our "reputation". It is amazing how much we are influenced by what people think of us. Our parents, our neighbours, our friends, even passers-by we have never met control our behaviour. We are afraid to stand up for Jesus. Yet he said, "If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him…" (Luke 9:26).

g. Emotionally overwhelmed. We have debts, or relationship problems, or other issues in our lives that we just can't cope with. Instead of facing the issues, we want to run away. We retreat into sin and selfishness, and evangelism is the last thing on our minds.

Perhaps lately we might have been a bit like John Mark.

3. Accepted back on the front line.

Philemon 1:23-24
23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings.
24 And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers.

2 Timothy 4:11
Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.

When Paul was imprisoned in Rome he was accompanied by Mark.

So it would seem that Mark by this time had redeemed himself! He is listed alongside some of Paul's top disciples! By the end of Paul's life (A.D. 67) he described Mark as "helpful to me in my ministry" indicating that reconciliation was complete and that he was intimately involved in the mission.

After the disagreement between Paul and Barnabas there would have been a temptation for Mark to feel he had blown it for good and not to attempt to return to the front line. However, he used his talents to serve God not just by accompanying Paul but by writing the Gospel of Mark. Perhaps as he saw Luke writing his gospel, he was inspired to write down his own. Perhaps his was the first gospel, as many scholars believe. In any case, clearly Mark's failure became a catalyst for permanent repentance in his life. He serves as an example to any of us who may feel that we have failed and are tempted to slip into the background where we may live out a comfortable life.

4. A Son in the Faith.

1 Peter 5:13
She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark.

In this passage Peter describes Mark as his son. Perhaps the reason Mark was able to recover is that he found a father in the faith in Peter. We all need someone to disciple us, to believe in us, to call us to be like Jesus. Peter was that for Mark. What about you? Do you meet regularly with your discipler, or does he have to chase you? Are you close? Are you honest with him? Are you trying to imitate and follow him as he follows Christ? Mark did, and God blessed him with an eternal impact.

The early church fathers wrote that John Mark had accompanied Peter while he preached, and that the gospel of Mark is actually the gospel that Peter preached. Papias of Hierapolis wrote that "Mark, the interpreter of Peter, wrote down carefully what he remembered, both the sayings and the deeds of Christ." Asbury Smith in The Twelve Christ Chose wrote "On this authority it is believed Mark served as a translator for Peter when he preached in Rome. As Peter told and retold his experiences with Jesus, Mark interpreted them again and again to Christian groups. This frequent repetition gave Mark an almost verbatim memory of Peter's recollections. After the death of Peter, Mark, realizing the value of Peter's first-hand account, recorded what he remembered so clearly in the document we know as the first of the Gospel records. Matthew and Luke obviously used Mark's gospel in the writing of their lives of Jesus…Mark's gospel can be considered Peter's personal remembrance of his life with Jesus."

If you feel that you have slipped off the edge spiritually and are no longer involved in the mission have a talk with your discipler about why you are off the edge and how to get back on. Your life could then have a lasting impact just like Mark's. Today needs to be a day of decision. Your life is not over. There is much time left. There may have been unfulfilled dreams, disappointments, even times you have been misunderstood. But God is ready to accept you back on the front line. Perhaps you have not been fruitful in years. Make this your year. Perhaps you once were in leadership, but now you are on the sidelines. Make this the time of your resurgence. John Mark's name is remembered forever as one of the men who wrote a gospel of our Lord's life. May our epitaphs be similarly inspiring!