John Mark: “Useful For Service”

By Jon W. Quinn

John Mark is first mentioned by name after the death of the apostle James by Herod's order. James had been put into prison and subsequently executed. This had pleased the Jews, and so Herod proceeded to have Peter arrested and intended to execute him as well. The disciples were very concerned for Peter's sake. Would he be next?

Peter's Escape
Some of the disciples at Jerusalem had gathered in the home of one of their number, a sister in Christ by the name of Mary who was also John Mark's mother. Upon Peter's miraculous escape with the help of an angel of the Lord, he found his way to Mary's house. The Bible says concerning Peter, “...he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was also called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.” (Acts 12:12).

Herod ordered that a search be made for Peter but they failed to find him. He then ordered that the guards be executed. Finally, Herod left Judea for Caesarea where soon after that he died (Acts 12:18-23).

Young John Mark saw the power of God in the defeat of Herod and the spread of the gospel as churches were established. He also joined Barnabas and Saul in their ministry, what we often refer to as the First Missionary Journey. “But the word of the Lord continued to grow and to be multiplied. And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their mission, taking along with them John, who was also called Mark.” (Acts 12:24-25)

The Lad in Gethsemane
But the above account probably is not the first we read about John Mark. This young man who would become the writer of the gospel of Mark was very likely present in the garden of Gethsemane and saw the arrest of Jesus there. He would have been a very young boy at the time. We have already seen that his home was in Jerusalem. His gospel contains an interesting account of the arrest, with a peculiar item put in that is omitted by the other gospel writers, which suggests it is personally significant to him. Many suggest the young man dressed in his nightclothes was John Mark himself, who had perhaps snuck out of his bed and followed Jesus and the apostles to Gethsemane that fateful night of Jesus' arrest (Mark 14:45-52).

Witness to the Spread of the Gospel
John Mark was present at the conversion of the proconsul in Salamis and the defeat of Elymas the sorcerer. (Acts 13:4-12). He went with Paul and Barnabas on the first journey as far as Pamphylia, but then left the group to return to Jerusalem. “Now Paul and his companions put out to sea from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia; but John left them and returned to Jerusalem.” (Acts 13:13).

Later, when Paul and Barnabas prepare to undertake a second journey together they disagreed over whether to take John Mark with them. Barnabas apparently wanted him to go, but Paul, remembering how he had quit and gone home on the first journey, did not want him to go (Acts 15:36-41). The solution reached was that Mark went with Barnabas to Cyprus and Paul took Silas with him to Asia Minor.

Paul eventually got over it, but it took time. Later, Paul tells the Church at Colossae to welcome John Mark (Colossians . 4:10). John Mark became a useful worker for the Lord, and Paul commends him as a “fellow worker” (Philemon 24). We read of Paul's final mention of John Mark before Paul's death and Paul describes John Mark as being “useful to me for service” (2 Timothy 4:11). John Mark is also mentioned as being with Peter in “Babylon” a term which could be a veiled reference to Rome, but not everyone agrees on that (1 Peter 5:13). He is the author of the book of Mark, and was an eyewitness to at least the portion of Jesus' ministry that took place in Jerusalem.

God's Purpose and Workings
One question that might be asked is this: “Why did God deliver Peter from Herod and not James?” Another would be, “Why was Peter delivered from Herod but not later delivered from Caesar?”

The answer is because that is how God chose to work His plan. It is the deaths of the early disciples and apostles who were eyewitnesses of the resurrection of Jesus that confirm to us their sincerity and confidence. They were preaching and teaching what they had witnessed and knew it to be true. Jesus is Lord and Christ and has power over even death. James was the first apostle to demonstrate by giving up his life that his testimony was true. Peter would eventually do so as well, but later. As Jesus had told them shortly before His ascension, “ shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth." (Acts 1:8). They were, not only with their words, but also with their deeds and sacrifices.

Preaching is Sometimes Hard Work
As Paul speaks of his work as a proclaimer of the gospel, he does so with much joy. He does not regret it, but at the same time there were hard ships involved many times. There were tears as well as joy. Preaching the gospel is sometimes hard work. It requires faith, boldness, and zeal. It takes a lot of time and sacrifice. To do it correctly, one must speak the truth all the time. Mark gave up once, but returned to the work. We all need to finish our race as disciples (Luke 14:27-30; 2 Timothy 4:7,8). Those who preach must also fulfill their responsibilities as evangelists; “But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:5).

Others Depend On Us
Other Christians depend upon us. Our attitudes and willingness to work will add or detract from the effectiveness of God's workers. We can encourage or discourage. John Mark evidently was a discouragement to Paul when he left them and returned home. Thankfully, that passed, but it does serve to illustrate our need to be conscious that our words and actions need to be what the ought to be. Join with your brethren in doing the King's business (Romans 16:3; 6; 9; 12; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).

Serving the Lord draws us closer together. If you work for the Lord, you will be welcomed by your faithful and appreciative brethren. “...but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:15,16).

From The Bradley Banner 11/14/2004
Published by the Bradley Church of Christ
1505 E. Broadway
Bradley, IL 60915


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