23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, 24 and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers.” (Philemon 23–24 (ESV)
Continuing with Paul’s final greetings to Philemon, today we examine Mark, otherwise known as John Mark (Acts 12:25). What do we know of this young man?
Mark was a cousin of Barnabas; a companion to both Paul and Peter and the author of the second Gospel.
The Tyndale Bible Dictionary provides valuable insight and information.
Mark was a member of a Jewish family in Jerusalem who were early believers in Jesus Christ, John Mark had both a Jewish and a Roman name. The Roman name Mark was perhaps a badge of Roman citizenship, as in Paul’s case, or was adopted when he left Jerusalem to serve the gentile church in Antioch (Acts 12:25). When an angel of the Lord freed Peter from prison, the apostle went directly to “the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark” (v 12, nrsv). This house, described as having an outer gate, being of adequate size to accommodate a gathering of many believers and served by a slave named Rhoda (vv 12–13), was obviously the dwelling of a wealthy family. By the time of this event (c. ad 44), Mark may have already been converted through the personal influence of Peter (1 Pt 5:13). The fact that he was chosen to accompany Barnabas and Saul (Paul) to Antioch indicates that Mark was held in high esteem by the church in Jerusalem (Acts 12:25).
John Mark accompanied Barnabas and Saul to assist them on their evangelistic expedition (Acts 13:5). He soon left the apostles, however, and returned to Jerusalem (v 13). Scripture does not reveal the cause of this desertion. Perhaps the rigors and hardships of the journey overwhelmed the young man. Another possible explanation was that at Paphos, shortly into the journey, Paul stepped to the front as leader and spokesman (v 13). Thereafter, Acts (with the natural exception of 15:12, 25) speaks of Paul and Barnabas rather than Barnabas and Paul.
Perhaps it offended Mark to see his kinsman Barnabas, who had preceded Paul in the faith (4:36–37) and had ushered him into the apostles’ fellowship (9:27), take second place in the work of the gospel. But there may have been a deeper and more significant cause for Mark’s withdrawal.
Like Paul, Mark was “a Hebrew born of Hebrews” (Phil 3:5, nrsv). Because of this, Mark may have objected to Paul’s offer of salvation to the Gentiles based only on faith without the prerequisite of keeping the Jewish law. It is noteworthy that the Bible uses only the Hebrew name John when recording Mark’s presence on the gospel journey (Acts 13:5) and his departure at Perga in Pamphylia (v 13). Also important is the fact that John Mark returned, not to the Gentile church in Antioch, the site of his former service, but to the Jewish church in Jerusalem (v 13).
One of the evidences that the Bible is the Word of God is that it records God’s people as they really are: sinful and flawed human beings. God’s people make mistakes and experience failures. Yet the Lord continues to use us even in spite of our failures. What was true in the Scriptures remains true today.
More to follow concerning the young man known as John Mark. Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Soli deo Gloria!