This is where I came into this story. It seemed a bit of background would have give us a better understanding of Mark’s quitting in midstream, the effect it had on the team with which he was working. We learned that, for whatever reason he resigned, one of the results of his resignation was the break-up of the first major “Evangelistic Association.” His quitting without any notice put a huge strain on a beautiful friendship, cracked the first mission team wide open, and nearly wrecked any opportunity John Mark may have had to write the Gospel record which bears his name. It could have very well have erased his name from Church history and spelled the end of Mark’s “ministry.”
In the thirteenth verse of the thirteenth chapter of Acts, without any explanation, the scriptural account records the fact that John (Mark) broke ranks and went home. He simply, abruptly quit. No reason was given. He just walked off the job.
We’re left to wonder: why? At times I feel we need to “fill in the blanks” for ourselves, using the facts available, our imagination, and what we know of human nature. It could have been for any number of reasons, or for no reason at all. It’s left blank. Perhaps one reason Scripture is vague in instances such as this is so that we can pen in our own foibles, our own reasons for failure. Every once in a while I see the Bible as a sort of “connect the dots” or “fill in the blanks” exercise, if we are making a serious effort to understand the real meaning from it. I keep saying to myself that studying the Bible and worship are not spectator sports.
Perhaps Mark had a girl friend back in Jerusalem and he missed her. Maybe he just got homesick. He was in a strange country, unfamiliar customs, different foods from his regular diet. It’s possible that he may have seen the hard demands of such a mission and realized he was unprepared for such. Barnabas and Saul (as he was still known at this point.) were working whole-heartedly, investing and risking everything. Mark had apparently not reached that level of maturity and the pressures got to him. He had not made the commitment necessary. He hadn’t yet counted the high cost of discipleship. Mark hadn’t reckoned on that and was not prepared to make that kind of sacrifice.
You can understand that, can’t you? Mark acted before he really thought things through. He gave a superficial answer to a profound question and realized he wasn’t ready for this. It would be centuries before the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer said: “When Jesus calls a man, He calls Him to come and die.” I don’t know how much young Mark hung around Jesus and the Apostles. I don’t know if he ever heard Jesus tell the other guys: “If you follow me, you’ll have to deny yourself and take up your cross daily.” Those are hard words for anyone to hear, and probably especially true of a young man still in his early teens.
There’s no record of a quarrel when Mark went AWOL, but a dispute did break out when they started making preparations for a second missionary journey. It fractured the team which had begun with so much promise. Barnabas wanted Mark to be given a second chance. Paul said: “No way!” It’s difficult for me to imagine “saints” actually arguing, or engaged in a heated discussion. But the records indicated they did, in fact, disagree. Each was unbending, and the sad result was that Paul and Barnabas parted ways. There’s no record of their ever working together again.
You’ve done things like Mark did, haven’t you? Perhaps you were young and impulsive and you acted without really thinking carefully and thoroughly through your decision or its possible repercussions. Mark may have been as disappointed in himself as Paul was. Does that mean the rest of his life is ruined? Did some selfish, impulsive decision you made years ago have anything to do with your own spiritual retreat?
In a couple of instances, Paul mentions people who quit too quick. He called one by name and gave the reason for his “wimping out.” “Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world.” The gaudy, but attractive temporary trinkets dazzled him.
In another situation, Paul spoke to some young Christians, commended them for some of their progress, but then said: “You were doing very well. Who hindered you?” (Galatians 5:7)
In that case, clearly someone had said or done something and the result was some young Christians got knocked a bit off stride. It happens.
Can you understand how things like that take place? Have you made some mistake, been criticized or wounded, been knocked down and counted out. . . perhaps by someone whom you respected as Mark admired Paul and Barnabas?
What effect did that have on you? How did you come back?
Do you know some young Christian who may have walked on wobbly legs in their spritual infancy. In cases like that, have you assumed the role of Paul? Or Barnabas? If you are honestly observant, you can probably picture yourself at sometime in your life as: Mark, the guy who fumbled the ball. Paul, the stern disciplinarian, maybe at times a bit too upright and uptight. or Barnabas, a friend who could see potential others miss and risk helping with what someone else might consider a “lost cause.” Now, please don’t think I’m trying to be “cute” or careless with these men whom I respect and admire greatly. I’m simply trying to understand that even though they became spiritual giants, they were still made of flesh and blood and bone. They were human, just as you and I are!
How do you explain the fact that Mark recovered his footing spiritually, eventually even won back Paul’s respect, and went on to become closely associated with Simon Peter and is credited with having written one of the four Gospel accounts?
Let’s mull those thoughts over a bit and discuss it further next time. No rush. No pressure. Just take time and ponder and prayerfully draw your own conclusions. Have you been perhaps too harsh on your self? Have you been too quickly, harshly judgmental of someone else and dismissed them without giving them opportunity to make amends? Have you seen someone stumble and at least made an effort to help them get back on the right path?
God’s son and servant, your friend and fellow student, ~donkimrey
One thing more before I go: Those who visit the site probably know I’ve worked on a book for quite some time now. We sold out the first short run and are now having more copies printed. If you have time, I’d really appreciate your visiting my website and offering any suggestions or advice you have about format, content, or the best ways to get the books into the hands of someone who may be helped by reading it. The site is http://www.Godscomebackkids.com. If you’ve visited earlier, you’ll need to click the little “refresh” icon above to be able to see recent revisions. “Refresh” is the little semi-circle with an arrow at the top of this page. It is in the same white space as the blog address. Let me know if you have any problems. Thanks! ~don