It isn’t clear to me how God leads us. I am convinced that he does; it’s just that I don’t claim to know how He does that.
I try. I listen and think and pray, and every now and then it seems I get a glimpse of understanding. Such is the case as I pondered the life of John Mark. (Better known to history as Mark, author of the Gospel record which bears his name.).
My intention early on was to consider how he became one of “God’s Comeback Kids,” but I got a bit sidetracked and felt some of the facts in his story were worth a bit of careful thought. I wanted to find out more about Mark: Not just how he got the Apostle Paul so riled up and disappointed that his “contract” wasn’t renewed. I wondered what he did (or didn’t do) that made Paul feel he couldn’t be trusted with the responsibility of a second assignment in the young church’s evangelistic efforts.
Whatever happened, it was so serious that Paul and Barnabas broke their partnership and went off in different directions with different team members. I couldn’t help but compare that with Billy Graham and Cliff and Bev, T.W. and Grady having a quarrel, or a huge misunderstanding, splitting, and heading off in different directions.
But Mark wasn’t yet even a full fledged member of the Barnabas and Paul Evangelistic Association, Post Office Box 1, Jerusalem, Israel. He was only a lowly “crusade associate.”
I wondered what would have happened if Billy Graham had tossed some young associates off his team because of some mistakes they made in their youthful enthusiasm or immaturity. I’ve heard stories about Franklin Graham being a wild and crazy guy when he was a kid. Would that have been sufficient reason for any self-respecting, respectable Senior Members of the team or Board Member to have blocked his participation in the ministry?
Fortunately, Mark was recovered for the Church’s mission, and at a point was restored to Paul’s favor. We’ll talk about that later.
For the present, I want to consider some events and personalities which led to Paul’s being thrust into Christian history, how Mark became involved in his work, then left abruptly, inexplicably, how some seemingly unrelated events unfolded, connected, and how it became apparent after the facts that God was working when no one could have recognized or even guessed that fact if they’d only gone by appearances.
We can see some of the outcomes, but what I tried to do is track back upstream to where some things originated. Once I could see what happened and what resulted, even I could begin to see a plan unfold.
In this case, before we meet John Mark and consider his “slip-up,” recovery, and contributions to the Faith, may I introduce you to someone whom he never even met. Someone whose life and death set in motion a chain of events which ultimately impacted a wild-eyed, brilliantly intelligent zealot we now know as Saul of Tarsus, aka Paul, the Apostle.
The first time I heard Paul’s name was in connection with the stoning of the first Christian martyr. He’s introduced, evidently as an aide to those who needed someone to hold their coats while they did the killing. Here’s the account:
Acts 7:54 ”When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56“Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
57At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.
59While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.”
Someone a short while before had mistakenly concluded that if you kill the Messenger, you can kill the message and extinguish the light of that life. You cannot kill truth. Nor can you contain the effects it will have when it is turned loose. We should know that by now.