FAITHFUL FELLOW WORKERS
My fellow prisoner, Aristarchus, sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes, welcome him). Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my co-workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me (Col. 4: 10-11).
Aristarchus, Mark and Justus – only three Jews among the many people that Paul had won to Christ! It’s no wonder Paul said that they were a comfort to him! He grieved for his own people because they were stubborn in their unbelief and in their rejection of Jesus Christ as their Messiah. Yet Paul was comforted by the few Jews who had believed, and were ready to suffer for Christ as Aristarchus proved by being in prison alongside Paul for his faith in Jesus.
One of the names among the Jewish believers Paul mentioned is of special interest. At the beginning of his second missionary journey, Paul had a fall-out with Barnabas over John Mark because Mark had deserted them after only a short time as a fellow traveller on their first missionary journey. What was the issue? Mark was Barnabas’s cousin. It was Barnabas who decided to take him along with them after they were appointed by the Holy Spirit to take the gospel to the world.
Was this another ‘Abraham and Lot’ situation? God told Abraham to leave his homeland and his family and go to the land He would show him. Abraham left his home, but he took his nephew, Lot, with him which proved to be a wrong move. Lot cause him many problems in the land of Canaan which he would have avoided had he only obeyed God fully.
The Holy Spirit chose Paul and Barnabas for missionary work, which did not include Mark. Barnabas decided to take him along – a decision which later resulted in a split between Paul and Barnabas because of Mark’s desertion when they left the island of Cyprus. Paul was unwilling to risk taking him along again (Acts 15; 36-40); they had a sharp disagreement and they parted company.
Yet in this letter Paul singled Mark out for special mention. Firstly, he was among the Jewish believers who were with Paul at the time of his writing, and who brought comfort to him in his imprisonment. Secondly, it seems that the rift had been healed between Mark and Paul, and that John Mark had become a faithful believer instead of a deserter.
Perhaps Barnabas’s confidence in Mark had influenced him to put his roots down into Christ. Barnabas was that kind of a man. After Paul’s conversion, it was Barnabas who gave him the benefit of the doubt when the apostles in Jerusalem were suspicious of him. After all, was he not the arch-persecutor of the believers, and the reason many of them had suffered and even died for their faith in Jesus?
Barnabas was a generous man. He vouched for Paul when the others would have nothing to do with him and his confidence in him was rewarded. Paul turned out to be what Barnabas expected – a true and faithful man of God.
Now Paul speaks of Mark with warmth as one of those who brought him comfort. Was it Barnabas’s acceptance of Mark in spite of his failure that influenced Paul to give him another chance? With Barnabas as his example, at some point Paul reconciled with both Barnabas and Mark and also gave Mark a second chance – and he was not disappointed.
We can learn a valuable lesson from this incident. Paul was ready to dump Mark because of his failure but Barnabas was not. It was Barnabas’s generous attitude, not Paul’s judgmental behaviour, that won Mark and brought him back to become a dear brother to Paul and faithful servant of Jesus.
What if Barnabas had also judged and rejected him? What would have become of him? Would he have ever been written into God’s story as a Jewish believer who brought comfort to Paul and who was to be welcomed by the church in Colossae? I don’t think so!
It pays to be generous is our love for and confidence in our fellow believers because we never know, in the end, what a difference it might make to someone who has taken a wrong turn and needs to be brought back.
Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.