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?
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
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
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
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, “...you 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
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