Saturday, March 18, 2017

Daily reading assignment: Mark 1-2

I have heard it often said, “Bible believers are the only ones who shoot their wounded!”

Why is it, we who have been forgiven much, are often unwilling to forgive and restore others?  Why do we set ourselves up as the perfect standard and condemn others who fall short of our expectations?

I fear many who have known the LORD for years or grew up in church and were spared the mire of sin, forget the sinful muck out of which God saves us.  We forget God’s exhortation for us to forgive to the extent we have experienced forgiveness (Ephesians 4:32).

Today’s Bible reading takes us to the Gospel of Mark and the ministry of John the Baptist; however, before we plunge into that study, let us take some lessons from the life of its human author, John Mark.

Who was John Mark?   Unlike the authors of the Gospels of Matthew, Luke and John, Mark was not one of the twelve disciples. We learn from Acts 12:12 he was a citizen of Jerusalem.  Some believe he is the young man mentioned in Mark 14:50-52 who fled into the night naked when Jesus was arrested in the Garden.  It is widely accepted he was a traveling companion of the Apostle Peter from whom he gained intimate knowledge of the Lord.  In Acts 12:25 he departs from Jerusalem with Paul and Barnabas to Antioch and is their helper as they set out on their first missionary journey (Acts 13:1-5).

Fortunately for us, but unfortunately for John Mark, his journey with Paul and Barnabas became a spiritual crisis and came to an abrupt end when we read, “Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departing [going away; deserting] from them returned [turning his back] to Jerusalem” (Acts 13:13).

The cause for John Mark’s sudden departure is not revealed (I speculate the hardships of travel, but more so the danger and ever-present threat of persecution); however, John Mark reappears in Acts 15 and becomes a source of conflict and division between two of the churches greatest missionaries – Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:36-39). The dynamic missionary duo, Paul and Barnabas, were preparing to go on a second missions trip when we read “Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark” (Acts 15:37). Unlike Barnabas, Paul “thought it not good [desirable] to take [John Mark], who departed from [quit; deserted] them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work (15:38). The dispute over John Mark’s company became so great between Barnabas and Paul the great co-laborers went their separate ways (Acts 15:39-41).

That fact brings us to the question: “How did John Mark go from being a man with whom Paul was unwilling to travel to the author of the Gospel of Mark?   We do not know what transpired in John Mark’s life after he departed with Barnabas on a mission’s journey apart from Paul. We do know he went on to distinguish himself as one of God’s faithful servants.

Many believe Mark penned his Gospel to the believers in Rome while he was in Rome, leaving me to ask, “What brought John Mark to Rome?”

 I believe the answer to that question is found in Paul’s second letter to Timothy, written while he was a prisoner in Rome awaiting his execution. Paul writes, “Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable [good; worthy] to me for the ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11). It was Paul’s desire, not only that Timothy would come to his aid, but that he would also bring Mark to minister with him.

As you read the Gospel of Mark, remember one of the great spiritual lessons we take from its author: God restores failures and uses imperfect people to do His work.

While Paul viewed John Mark as a disappointment, Barnabas looked through the eyes of a Mentor, and at the risk of a friend’s company, lovingly restored Mark to ministry. Perhaps it was this lesson that moved Paul’s heart when he penned:

Galatians 6:1-2 – “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. 2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith