13 “Now Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. And John left them and returned to Jerusalem, 14 but they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. And on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. 15 After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent a message to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it.” (Acts 13:13–15)
The first missionary journey continued for Paul, Barnabas and John/Mark. They departed the Island of Cyprus and sailed 200 miles north across the Mediterranean Sea to the city of Perga, located in the Roman Province of Pamphylia in Asia Minor.
When they arrived at Perga, John/Mark left them. The grammar in the verb “left” indicates a definitive and wholehearted departure. As determined as Paul and Barnabas were to continue traveling in order to share the Gospel, John/Mark was equally determined to return home to Jerusalem. Nothing is said by Luke as to why John/Mark parted company. Perhaps it was because the Holy Spirit had not set apart John/Mark for the called work as He had Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:2-3).
Dr. R. C. Sproul comments that, “Luke gives no reason for his (John/Mark’s) departure, but scholars have guessed homesickness, fears about traveling in Asia, and possible objections to preaching to the Gentiles. His departure will later cause a split between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:36:40).”
In spite of John/Mark’s departure, Paul and Barnabas continued to minister. They traveled from Perga to Pisidian Antioch. This was not Antioch in Syria where Paul and Barnabas had previously served (Acts 11:19-26). Antioch in Pisidia was located in the mountains of Asia Minor in modern day Turkey. When the Sabbath day arrived, they went into the synagogue and sat down. This perhaps indicates the opportunity and privileged position to teach.
It was after the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the ruler of the synagogue asked Paul and Barnabas if either of them would share a word of encouragement to the people who had gathered. It was typical to ask a visitor to deliver a sermon.
One biblical scholar notes, “In a later period, the biblical readings (especially from the law) would be fixed, and the synagogue sermon would be a homily on the texts read, similar to the one in this chapter; homilies (expositions of texts) were probably already used in this period. “Rulers of the synagogue” were the highest officials of local synagogues and are attested in Jewish inscriptions throughout the empire.”
Paul would comply with the rulers’ request (Acts 13:16). As we will see when next we meet, he would take the opportunity to expound from the Old Testament about the Gospel of God in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Soli deo Gloria!