Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry. (verse 11)
This sentence is a complete surprise. It’s also incredibly encouraging. Mark had been at the centre of one of the biggest ministry conflicts in the early church, a conflict that played out between Paul and Barnabas. Barnabas, “Son of Encouragement,”was one of Paul’s earliest Christian friends, taking Paul under his wing and welcoming him into the Christian community when most others were entirely skeptical of his faith and nervous of his presence. And with very good reason – Paul had actively persecuted the church, rounding up believers and seeking their execution, travelling all the way to Damascus to do more of what he’d already begun in Jerusalem. But after Paul’s conversion, Barnabas was able to see the transformative grace of God at work in his life. He believed Paul’s testimony of faith in Jesus and fully embraced him, introducing him to the apostles. Later, Barnabas took Paul with him to Antioch to work together in the ongoing ministry of teaching, building up the church in the very location where disciples were first called “Christians.” From that church, Paul and Barnabas were later sent out on their first missionary journey, preaching the Gospel and seeing many come to faith in Christ throughout Asia Minor, with new churches planted across the region.
Mark set out with them on that very first journey. I imagine he was enthusiastic to start. But it didn’t take long before he jumped ship, abandoning the mission altogether.
We don’t know Mark’s reasons. It could have been any number of things. But Paul didn’t forget, and when Barnabas, who happened to be Mark’s cousin, suggested they take him along on the next trip, Paul balked. Strongly. Immovably. Barnabas was all for giving Mark a second chance, but Paul wouldn’t hear of it. So fierce was the disagreement that Paul and Barnabas separated, breaking up one of the first missionary teams in the early church.
It’s a painful episode. It speaks of the reality of human foibles, even among those who have been redeemed by Jesus. It speaks, too, of God’s ability to work with us anyway, for Barnabas took Mark and carried on with ministry in Cyprus, and Paul took Silas and ministered alongside him in a number of places, including a Philippian jail rocked by an earthquake (Acts 16). The work of the Kingdom continued.
But, aware of human nature, I’m not always prepared to see true reconciliation, knowing that relational rifts can be incredibly difficult to mend.
That’s why this verse in 2 Timothy is both a surprise and a joy.Something happened, we don’t know what, to produce reconciliation between these two. What joy for both of them. What joy to the Lord. What powerful witness down the centuries ever since.
Paul clearly values Mark deeply, calling him “helpful to me in my ministry.” Such transformation would have taken a mix of humility, repentance, forgiveness, and brotherly love, on both parts. Subsequently, Mark was alongside Paul during his imprisonment in Rome and Paul specifically sends greetings from him when he writes to the church in Colossae. Indeed, he vouches for Mark, urging the Colossian church to welcome him fully whenever he comes to them. Paul sends similar greetings from Mark when he writes his dear friend Philemon. Mark has become part of Paul’s inner circle.
Interestingly, this young man who abandoned ministry early on becomes a valued co-worker later. It took grace on the part of both.
Not to mention, this redeemed young man went on to write a history of Jesus, lending that Gospel his own name – Mark. We are eternally blessed.
O Lord, help me to press into the fullness of the reconciliation you desire to work throughout your kingdom. Whenever I find myself in the midst of brokenness, please work humility, repentance, forgiveness and brotherly love in my own heart. May your kingdom come, your will be done. Amen.
Reflect: Are you part of a relationship that needs repair? In humility, what steps is the Lord calling you to take?