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Studying the lives of people in the Bible can bring hope to believers today. The life of John Mark in the New Testament illustrates the truth that failure is not final for believers.
John Mark was the son of Mary, an affluent godly widow in Jerusalem who allowed believers to meet in her home for prayer.
John Mark likely had contact with many wonderful people who took part in that fellowship. At some point the apostle Peter led him to the Lord, because he later called him his spiritual son.
He also had a godly cousin, Barnabas, who had moved to Jerusalem from Cyprus. When Barnabas and Paul returned to the church at Antioch in Syria after delivering a love gift from them to suffering believers in Jerusalem, they took John Mark along with them as their helper.
When God directed them to travel to Cyprus on their first missionary journey, they again took John Mark along. After moving through Cyprus they sailed north to the town of Perga in Asia Minor. For whatever reason, John Mark at that point unexpectedly left the team and returned home to Jerusalem.
Later, when Paul and Barnabas decided to retrace the steps of their journey to see how the new churches were doing, Paul refused Barnabas’ request to bring John Mark with them, citing his desertion as a main reason.
The contention between the two men was so sharp that they separated from each other, with Paul taking a second journey to Asia Minor with his co-worker Silas, and Barnabas taking John Mark with him on a return trip to his native Cyprus.
Although John Mark had been rejected for further service by the great apostle Paul, Barnabas refused to give up on him, and gave him work to do.
The Bible does not mention John Mark again until Paul found himself in his first imprisonment at Rome. By that time he had realized that John Mark had made up for his earlier mistake, because he had had become Paul’s trusted co-worker. He even wrote the believers at Colossae exhorting them to welcome John Mark if he came to them.
And when Paul later became a prisoner at Rome at the time of his martyrdom, he wrote Timothy directing him to “Take Mark, and bring him with thee (to Paul): for he is profitable to me for the ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11).
John Mark’s service also included working with the apostle Peter at Babylon. At some point God granted him the amazing honor of writing the second Gospel, the Gospel of Mark.
Likely Peter gave him much information and insight about the life of Christ from his own personal experience with the Lord. By the grace of God, Mark, who had failed in his initial service to the Lord, wrote unerringly about Jesus, the perfect suffering servant of Jehovah.
Believers today can take courage from Mark’s life. Our God is the God of a second chance, who forgives the mistakes of people like Mark, Peter and Jonah, and restores them to useful service.
And many of us should stand by other believers when they fail, and do our part to help them continue to serve the Lord.
If you have been forgiven and your heart is now right with the Lord, he has a ministry for you.
Bob Lanning is pastor of Cornerstone Bible Church