Third Sunday After Easter-Saint Mark Feast Day: Marking Mark-A Look At His Relationship With Saint Paul
The Feast of St. Mark that we celebrate today is a reminder that the Gospel occurs in a human setting and condition. Mark, also known as “John Mark”, was at the center of tension between Paul and Barnabas and the differences were so severe that it led to a parting of way for the two.
And yet, St. Mark despite his less than stellar beginning in Church Leadership, and Barnabas, who seemed to start off as a mentor to Paul, was reconciled to St. Paul.
Here is the back story:
The Church leaders at Antioch, directed by the Holy Spirit, sent Saint Barnabas and Saint Paul forth on a missionary journey. They took with them on this first journey the cousin of Barnabas, John, who was called Mark. Somewhat early on this missionary journey, Mark decides he can no longer go on and turns away from the missionary trip. This will prove significant later on.
In Acts, in the 15th chapter, at the Council of Jerusalem which was called to decide whether Gentile converts could become full members of the church without converting to Judaism. Barnabas, along with Paul, provided important evidence as to the zeal and conversion of the Gentiles.
After the Council in Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch in triumph, their ministry vindicated. They planned another missionary journey together. But here comes a critical and sad moment.
And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed.….(Acts 15:36-40)
Here are two men who have been like brothers. Paul owes his inclusion in leadership largely to Barnabas, and together they had taught together, and journeyed hundreds of miles by ship and then by foot into the northern mountains making converts in effective ministry together. And, more recently they have just returned from Jerusalem, their vision and ministry approved and vindicated against nay-sayers among the brethren. And yet, at this magnificent moment Paul and Barnabas argue and part company over Mark, the cousin of Barnabas.
This is the last we hear of Barnabas in any substantial way. He who had been a close co-worker with Paul, and a influence in the early Church, now exits the stage in the heat of an argument. The text says he and Mark sailed for Cyprus, then silence……
There is mention of him in Galatians but, given the vague timeline it is difficult to assume it takes place after the disagreement. It likely took place earlier and may illustrate that there were already tensions between Paul and Barnabas before the “Mark incident.” For it would seem that Barnabas was following Peter’s weak example of not eating with Gentiles, and this clearly upset Paul (cf Galatians 2:13).
Here we have two people who did a great mission working side by side together, now finding themselves divided, with unresolved differences.
Our relationships with each other are important to God.
He created each of us to love Him and others. In fact, Jesus said: “’And thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind, and with thy whole strength. This is the first commandment. And the second is like to it: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31).
When we value relationships the way God does, we will resolve issues as they arise. This is not usually difficult for those who are quick to forgive, but those who are unforgiving often live with continual turmoil. Some even walk around like time bombs, ready to explode – or implode – whenever their short fuses are lit.
If someone has done you harm or you have had a strong disagreement with each other, and you don't forgive him, Satan can destroy your life.
The person who harmed you may repent later and enter God's kingdom. But you, who never did him any wrong, may go to hell, because you didn't forgive him. That looks unrighteous - that the person who did the wrong goes to heaven and you who suffered the wrong goes to hell. But it can happen if he repents and you don't forgive him. Jesus said, "But if you will not forgive men, their offences neither will your Father forgive you your offences." (Matthew 6:15). If your heavenly Father does not forgive you, how can you enter heaven? So if you die without forgiving anyone, as per Jesus' word here, you will go to hell, irrespective of how long you were a believer before that. So, we must develop the habit of forgiving others immediately, no matter what harm they did to us. Otherwise Satan will get an advantage over us.
Paul says, "For we are not ignorant of his devices." (II Corinthians 2:11). Satan is always trying to trip us up. Why do you think Satan constantly reminds you of the evil things that others have done to you in the past? Do you think he is sympathizing with you? No. He already got a hold of that other person to harm you. Now he wants to get a hold of you as well! Don't be ignorant of his schemes. Forgive everyone.
Paul gives testimony in II Corinthians 2:14, where he says, "Now thanks be to God, who always maketh us to triumph in Christ Jesus " - this verse is such a challenge for us - especially the word 'always.' Is it really possible to always triumph, to always get victory over broken relationships we have with others? Paul says he experienced constant triumph - and thanked God for giving him such a life. He didn't say that he was walking in triumph by his own power. No. He said that it was God Who led him in triumph always. He wasn't perfect. He did slip up occasionally, as we saw in his relationship with Barnabas and Mark, but Paul was an overcomer.
Barnabas continued to labor as a missionary for Paul makes mention of him In his first letter to the Corinthians in chapter 9:6). And although the mentioning of Barnabas is a passing reference, it is not disrespectful. This suggests that there was a healing of the rift between them, there was restoration of the relationship with each other even if it does not mean they labored together again.
And even with Mark (who became secretary to Peter and authored the Gospel of Mark), Paul overcame the difficulties he had with Mark and found restoration in their relationship. For St Paul wrote to Timothy about Saint Mark: Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry. (2 Timothy 4:11).
Is their anyone in your life that you have never tried to make things right with? Someone that has wronged you and sinned against you? You may say yes, but have hard did you really try.
Saint Paul says in Romans 5:8 God wanted a restored relationship with us and loved us so much that “when as yet we were sinners, Christ died for us!”
What are you willing to do to make things right with those who have wronged you?