A Candid confession
Sometimes I get “in over my head.” I’ve been known to “bite off a chunk I can’t chew.” In the study I’ve pursued lately, that seems to be exactly my dilemma! It is simply going to take more time for this. (Acts chapter 7 & ff)
At first I was thinking about how John Mark deserted Paul and Barnabas on the first missionary journey in Christian history, why he did it, and what happened afterward. In the course of that study, I considered how they’d become involved with each other and backtracked to Paul’s first entrance to Biblical history.
As you are perhaps aware, Paul (known at the time as “Saul.”) is introduced as a young zealot, and an accomplice in the brutal murder of Stephen. In the wake of that senseless tragedy, he flies off into a murderous, ruthless rage against the new Christian faith, is struck down and blinded on the road to Damascus, is converted, comes back later and wins skeptical acceptance from a suspicious body of believers. He is accepted largely because of the convincing influence of a disciple named Barnabas.
I began by considering the incident where young John Mark left Barnabas and Paul in mid-stream on what was really the first “Missionary Journey” or “Evangelistic Crusade” ever conducted in the history of the Church (Acts 13:13). It seems that Barnabas &Paul Evangelistic Association were that day’s equivalent of the Billy Graham, Bev Shea, Cliff Barrows team. As far as its effect on the history and growth of the Church, that first missionary effort may, in fact, have had even more impact on the growth and expansion of Christianity than any evangelistic attempt by anyone, even centuries later.
But John Mark didn’t know that would happen. For some reason or other, he abandoned ship in mid-mission. We don’t know exactly what his responsibilities were, nor his reasons for breaking ranks and returning home, but it seemed to have tarnished his reputation considerably. . . at least in the eyes of Paul of Tarsus, the man who was becoming the most influential spokesman for the Faith. He simply went AWOL!
Paul was not just surprised and disappointed in his young protégé. It appears that he was incensed. When he and Barnabas returned from the first mission, got “de-briefed” and refreshed, then geared up to go out again Paul refused to allow Mark to accompany them on the second missionary journey. “No!” was his first and final answer.
We had no video cam to record any of the events. There are no eyewitness accounts as to why Mark left in the first place, or how heated the exchanges were between Paul and Barnabas. But it is clear they disagreed so sharply the first missionary team in history was broken up. So, one of the consequences of Mark’s “abandoning ship” was that it fractured the friendship between Barnabas and Saul. They never worked together again.
A couple of questions have been rolling around in my mind: First, Why did Mark just “up and go? Second: What effect could it have on an impressionable young disciple if the brightest light on the horizon of Christian leadership decided he was untrustworthy? What effect would it have on any young Christian if, say, someone like Charles Stanley or Robert Schuler (I’ve mentioned Billy Graham’s name a lot, so you know my regard for him.) told a beginner in the faith: “Sorry, Kid. You just can’t cut it. You don’t have what it takes. I don’t have confidence in you at all. Try something else.”
It seems to me that something like that would be a heart breaker and backbreaker! It seems something like that would completely crush a guy’s confidence. Do you know from your own experience what it means to really disappoint someone whom you admire and respect? Someone whose opinion you value and whose “endorsement” could send you winging on your career? Have you ever “messed up” and had a respected leader declare that you weren’t worth taking a second chance? “You’re no good!” “You ain’t ever gonna amount to nothin’?”
I feel bad enough when I fail and punish myself ruthlessly. You don’t have to tell me when I do wrong. I know it and am ashamed of my self. But there is added pain feeling I’ve let someone down who cared for me and believed in me. But if they’ve been ugly to me, I usually just “write them off” and pout.
The details aren’t there, but you don’t have to be brain surgeon to understand what’s going on and how it might affect someone. Thinking about this kind of incident may even touch a sensitive nerve in you, as you remember what a damaging effect someone’s rejection had on your life.
We’re not given any specifics beyond the fact that Mark just “up and went back home.” (Acts 13:13)
May I have your thoughts on these questions? (1.) Can you think of any reason why John Mark just walked off the job? (2.) Do you have any suggestions about how his case could (or should) have been handled? (3.) How or why do you think someone like this could be given a “second chance?” (4.) Would you have sided with Paul or Barnabas in this discussion? Why?
TO BE CONTINUED
God’s son and servant, your friend and fellow student, donkimrey