“From Paphos Paul and company put out to sea, sailing on to Perga in Pamphylia. That’s where John called it quits and went back to Jerusalem. From Perga the rest of them travelled on to Antioch in Pisidia.” Acts 13:13-14a (The Message)

John Mark threw in the towel after the first leg of the journey. Why? Luke gives no details about the first missionary campaign in Cyprus except for the incident with the governor and the magician. Was Sergius Paulus the only convert in Cyprus? What else happened there? Did they have a hard time with the Jews?

Whatever the circumstances in Cyprus, John Mark was uncomfortable and chose to go back home. What effect did this have on Paul and Barnabas? We can glean from things that happened later on, that both of them reacted true to character.

Barnabas was closer to John Mark than Paul, both in relationship and in attitude. His name meant “encourager” and he consistently lived up to his name. When the church in Jerusalem initially refused to receive Saul after his conversion, Barnabas stood by him and vouched for him. When the church at Antioch needed teachers to instruct new Gentile believers, he fetched Saul from his home town where had been sent for safety from the Jerusalem Jews who were plotting to kill him.

Barnabas was a hands-on man, always ready to give someone the benefit of the doubt. No doubt he was the one who included John Mark in the first missionary team, probably as a trainee-helper.

Paul, on the other hand, was more rigid. He did not want a quitter on the team.  He and Barnabas had a fall-out when Barnabas wanted to give John Mark a second chance (Acts 15:36-41), so serious that the partnership broke up and each went his own way.

And what of John Mark? He was also on a journey. This episode was only a hiccup along the way. Perhaps it was Barnabas’ faith in him in spite of his failure that gave him the break he needed. Even Paul had to admit that Mark was an asset to him later on when he was in prison (Colossian 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:11).

Not only did John Mark redeem himself in Paul’s eyes but his name has been immortalised as the author of the second gospel. Tradition tells us that he was Peter’s companion for a time, either recording his sermons or making use of his memoirs as the foundation of his gospel written especially for Roman readers.

John’s story should be an encouragement to us; to those who have quit, there is always the second chance; and to those who know quitters, the opportunity to put someone back on the road to fulfil his or her potential. Perhaps, had Paul known what lay in the future, he would not have been so hard on Mark. Did he also have a lesson to learn from Barnabas?

It grieves me to find websites, supposedly Christian that specialise in stripping Christian leaders in the name of Jesus. Even the most well-known, godly and transparent men come under fire from these so-called exposures. What if these same people dedicated themselves to encourage and lift up the weak, putting them back on the way to becoming another “John Mark”?

There is enough dirt being publicised on the web to take gullible people into ruin and destruction without so-called “Christians” doing the devil’s work and adding unnecessary pain to God’s people. What if the church heeded the Apostle Paul’s words: “Who are you to judge another man’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand for the Lord is able to make him stand,” Romans 14:4 (NIV).

“Let us, therefore, make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification.” Romans 14:19 (NIV).

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Luella Campbell

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