A Lesson from the Life of John Mark
Dependability in God’s youth

Many years ago, a boy lived whose mother had heard Jesus Christ preach during His ministry on earth. His mom personally witnessed some of the miracles that Christ worked, and God called her to understand the truth. She gave up Judaism, and became one of the first Christians in the Church.

The Bible doesn’t say anything about the boy’s father. He was probably either not a member of the Church, or perhaps not a part of the boy’s life at all.

This boy’s mother raised him by God’s laws — just like most of us were raised by our parents. She taught him the difference between right and wrong, between life and death, between blessings and curses, between give and get. She taught him to love God’s law.

The boy’s name was John Mark, and following is one powerful lesson we can learn from the early years of his life.

Uncle Barny

Young John Mark did not only have his mother in the Church. His Uncle Barnabas was not only a member, but also a high-ranking minister (Colossians 4:10).

Several years after Jesus Christ was crucified, the Apostle Paul began to travel around with Barnabas. On these trips, they spread the news about Christ and what His message was. They did everything they could to teach people about the coming Kingdom of God because most had never heard it.

On one of their first trips, Mark was given an incredible opportunity: “And Barnabas and Saul [Paul] returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministry, and took with them John, whose surname was Mark” (Acts 12:25).

Mark was given the chance to travel through the Middle East with his uncle and the Apostle Paul! The Bible does not reveal exactly how old Mark was at this time, but he was quite young — maybe even still a teenager. This was an incredible opportunity for such a young person to have.

This missionary trip was conducted by a group of just three — the Apostle Paul, the minister Barnabas, and a young John Mark working as their assistant. From Jerusalem, they travelled to Antioch, which is in modern-day Turkey. Then they went to Seleucia, and from there sailed through the Mediterranean Sea to the home country of Barnabas — Cyprus (Acts 13:1-4; Acts 4:36).

They walked all the way across Cyprus, stopping in synagogues along the way and preaching the gospel to people — most of whom had never even heard the name of Jesus Christ. At one point, Paul and Barnabas were even summoned to preach before a Roman governor and high-ranking officials in his court (Acts 13:7).

Paul worked many miracles along the way, such as pronouncing a curse on a false prophet and making him go blind (verse 11). Many believed the gospel! What an incredible thing for the young John Mark to be able to witness first hand, and be a part of! But then, something regrettable happened.

Abandon Ship!

The group eventually reached the other side of the island of Cyprus, boarded a ship and sailed to west to Perga so they could tell more people about mankind’s only hope.

But look what happened when they arrived there: “Now when Paul and his company loosed from Pyphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John [Mark] departing from them returned to Jerusalem” (Acts 13:13).

John Mark left. He hopped onto another ship and sailed back home to Jerusalem where his mom lived.

He may have been overwhelmed by the Apostle Paul’s zealousness or by the way Paul was completely single-minded about the Work of God. John Mark was probably used to having his Uncle Barnabas in charge, and maybe that made it hard for him to get used to Paul’s leadership style. Whatever the case, it all got to be too much for John Mark, so he left Paul and Barnabas, and went back home.

The indication is that Mark was not taking full advantage of the opportunity to do God’s Work that had been placed before him. He may have been letting little things cloud his focus. Mark was apparently not spiritually mature enough to continually give and give like God requires, so he didn’t stick it out and finish what he started.

Mark had been raised in a Christian home. His mom had taught him about God’s Work and that we have to put God first. But he may have been holding on to his childhood too much, not really wanting to grow up and take God’s Work seriously. A part of him may have still viewed it as his mom’s religion — not completely his own religion.

We don’t know for sure. The Bible doesn’t reveal many details of John Mark’s departure from Paul, but it does discuss one result of it.

Paul Says ‘No’

A few years after Paul and Barnabas had returned home from that trip, they decided to take another journey together to visit all the people who had believed God’s message.

“And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do” (Acts 15:36).

Barnabas wanted John Mark to go with them (verse 37). Mark wanted to go as well. But whatever the reasons were for Mark’s departure during their first trip together, to Paul it meant Mark’s dependability was still in question. “Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work” (verse 38).

The evidence shows that Paul felt like Mark had really flaked out on them. Maybe when he left, it was during a time when they really needed the assistance of a strong, young man. And so Paul did not allow Mark to accompany them.

Mark may have matured a lot during those few years between the first trip and the second. He had probably gotten more serious, and decided to put away immaturity and to make God’s Work the most important thing in his life. But Paul didn’t want to risk bringing him along because he couldn’t know for sure.

Happy Ending!

The story of John Mark has a happy ending. Mark matured. He grew up and became a focused and hard-working minister for God’s Work. Later in life, the Apostle Paul said Mark was “profitable” to God’s Work (2 Timothy 4:11). God even inspired Mark to write about the life and teachings of Jesus Christ! Matthew, Mark, Luke and John — he is that Mark — the one who wrote a canonized book of the Bible that the Church has used so much in the last 2,000 years.

It is clear that God was able to do some astounding work through Mark. But He could have done even more though him if Mark had made God’s Work his highest priority at a younger age. The same is true for each of us. The sooner we put God’s Work first in our lives, and ensure that it is not just our parents’ religion but our own religion, the more the great God will be able to do through each one of us.