Mistakes are effective teachers. Their consequences have a way of making lessons painfully clear. But those who learn from their mistakes are likely to develop wisdom. John Mark was a good learner who just needed some time and encouragement.
Mark was eager to do the right thing, but he had trouble staying with a task. In his Gospel, Mark mentions a young man (probably referring to himself) who fled in such fear during Jesus’ arrest that he left his clothes behind. This tendency to run was to reappear later when Paul and Barnabas took him as their assistant on their first missionary journey. At their second stop, Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem. It was a decision Paul did not easily accept. In preparing for their second journey two years later, Barnabas again suggested Mark as a travelling companion, but Paul flatly refused. As a result, the team was divided, Barnabas took Mark with him, and Paul chose Silas. Barnabas was patient with Mark, and the young man repaid his investment. Paul and Mark were later reunited, and the older apostle became a close friend of the young disciple.
Mark was a valuable companion to three early Christian leaders -Barnabas, Paul, and Peter. The material in Mark’s Gospel seems to have come mostly from Peter. Mark’s role as a serving assistant allowed him to be an observer. He heard Peter’s accounts of the years with Jesus over and over again, and he was one of the first to put Jesus’ life in writing.
Barnabas played a key role in Mark’s life. He stood beside the young man despite his failure, giving him patient encouragement. Mark challenges us to learn from our mistakes and appreciate the patience of others. Is there a Barnabas in your life whom you need to thank for his or her encouragement to you?
Strengths and accomplishments:
- Wrote the Gospel of Mark
- He and his mother provided their home as one of the main meeting places for the Christians in Jerusalem
- Persisted beyond his youthful mistakes
- Was an assistant and travelling companion to three of the greatest early missionaries
Weaknesses and mistakes:
- Probably the nameless young man described in the Gospel of Mark who fled in panic when Jesus was arrested
- Left Paul and Barnabas for unknown reasons during the first missionary journey
Lessons from his life:
- Personal maturity usually comes from a combination of time and mistakes
- Mistakes are not usually as important as what can be learned from them
- Effective living is not measured as much by what we accomplish as by what we overcome in order to accomplish it
- Encouragement can change a person’s life
- Where: Jerusalem
- Occupations: Missionary-in-training, Gospel writer, travelling companion
- Relatives: Mother: Mary. Cousin: Barnabas
- Contemporaries: Paul, Peter, Timothy, Luke, Silas
Key verse: “Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry” (Paul writing in 2 Timothy 4:11).
John Mark’s story is told in Acts 12:23-13:13 and 15:36-39. He is also mentioned in Colossians 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 24; 1 Peter 5:13.