At the close of Paul’s second letter to Timothy, he gives Timothy this instruction.
Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry (emphasis added).
2 Timothy 4:11 (NIV)
When you read this verse, you might notice Luke’s name, and if you wondered if this was the same Luke who wrote the Gospel of Luke and Acts, you’d be correct in your thinking. You might even wonder if this was the same Mark who wrote the Gospel of Mark, and here too, you would be right. However, you might not know that this Mark is the same Mark who abandoned Paul in Acts.
From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John [Mark] left them to return to Jerusalem.
Acts 13:13 (NIV)
Later, Paul and Barnabas got into a terrible argument because they had a difference of opinion about Mark.
Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus,
Acts 15:37-39 (NIV)
Acts 13 and 15 occurred around 48 AD, while Paul wrote 2 Timothy in 67 AD. A difference of 19 years! Sometime in those 19 years, Mark ends up working with the apostle Peter since Peter refers to Mark as his son in 1 Peter 5:13 (64 AD). Since Paul requests Mark in 2 Timothy, we know that the rift between him and Paul was mended at some point in those years.
When I think about Acts 15 and the argument between Paul and Barnabas, I can’t help but think about Mark and what he might have thought about those events. Indeed, Mark must have felt bad about his actions. After all, Paul and Barnabas were great friends, and coming between them must have caused some doubt in Mark about his worth as a Christian. Yet, look at how God ended up using Mark!
Peter and Paul are amongst the most eminent apostles in the Bible; Mark served with both Peter and Paul and went on to write the Gospel of Mark. Imagine if Mark let his failure in Acts get to him and impede his progress in the Lord.
In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he gives them this insight.
Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.
2 Corinthians 7:10 (NIV)
I think Mark had two choices after he left Paul and Barnabas in Pamphylia, and then was the impetus behind Paul and Barnabas’ parting of ways. He could either repent and move on, letting God fix the problem, or try and work it out on his own. Since Mark went on to write the Gospel of Mark and served both Peter and Paul, I will say that Mark repented and let God fix the problem.
I want you to be encouraged today by Mark, and imagine if you’d only read the book of Acts and knew nothing about the Gospel of Mark. Had you only read Acts, you’d have never known what God did in Mark’s life. Instead, you might have thought Mark amounted to nothing. Consider the mistakes and failures in your walk with Christ. If God can take Mark, the same man who Paul wanted nothing more to do with, and turn him into a servant who served both Peter and Paul and wrote the Gospel of Mark, God can surely take your errors and turn them into something marvelous. We will stumble as Christians, but don’t give up because God hasn’t given up on you!