My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.) (verse 10)
Paul is currently imprisoned, probably in Rome, and as he brings his letter to a close, he lists a number of people who are with him (Aristarchus, Jesus who is called Justus, Epaphras, Luke, Demas), and then sends greetings to the whole church (both in Colossae and Laodicea), specifically naming Nympha and Archippus.
Among all these names, one stands out. Mark. He’s identified as “the cousin of Barnabas,” which serves to remind us why this name is so unexpected in Paul’s letter. Mark was the source of an explosive conflict between Barnabas and Paul, breaking apart their collaborative mission efforts, which up until that time had been so fruitful – each headed off in a different direction. All because Mark was a deserter.
Paul and Barnabas had taken him on their first missionary journey. At that point he was identified in the story as “John” (13:5; later we’re told he was “also called Mark,” 15:37), and served as their helper in proclaiming the word of God, a very high calling indeed. But he only travelled with them a short time before turning tail and heading back to Jerusalem. We’re not told why he did it, but clearly this desertion stung Paul, for when Barnabas suggested taking Mark on their next trip, Paul could not be convinced. Indeed, the disagreement between the two became so sharp, they separated, Barnabas taking Mark, and Paul taking Silas. Ironically, it’s the last time Barnabas and Mark are ever mentioned in the Acts account.
But now Mark pops up again! It’s some twelve years later as Paul writes this letter. Clearly something has happened in the interval, for Mark is alongside him during his imprisonment, being included in the greetings that Paul sends, just as he is also included in the letter Paul wrote at the same time to his friend, Philemon (Philemon 24). Indeed, Mark is part of Paul’s ongoing plans for the future – he’s already written to the Colossians giving instructions for welcoming Mark, if and when he comes.
Later yet we get one final glimpse of Mark. It’s as Paul writes to his young friend, Timothy, having experienced another painful desertion, this time by his co-worker, Demas. He asks Timothy to come quickly, specifically asking him to bring Mark with him. Was Paul struck by the irony? One deserter providing strength and support in face of another. Why did Paul make such a request? He says simply: “because he is helpful to me in my ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11).
Something has happened. Paul is the one who declares that in Christ we have been given the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18). Clearly, he himself has now embraced reconciliation with Mark. Paul tells us that we are to “forgive each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). Clearly, he himself has forgiven his brother. Paul, speaking about the various parts of the body, says, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’” (1 Corinthians 12:21). It seems that Paul came to recognize this not just as a piece of good theology, but as practical reality in his own relationship with Mark.
Oh, how good! It all rings true. Reconciliation is possible. So, too, forgiveness. And the body can be mended where once it was broken.
So, reflect on your own story, those moments you yourself have experienced desertion or betrayal, broken promises or wounded relationship. The Lord is fully able to restore and renew. He can work in the heart of the one who caused the offense. He can work in your heart, too.
Remember Paul and Mark.
Lord Jesus, thank you for this sighting of reconciliation at work. Thank you that forgiveness and restoration is your plan. Work it in me. Work it in those around me. For your great glory. Amen.
Reflect: Do you have someone in your life like Mark? Has there been healing? If not, bring yourself and the other party before the Lord. Remember Paul and Mark. Pray for such restoration.