This Week's Focus Passage

‘The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.’

Focus Passage: Mark 1:1

‘The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.’

In a reflection upon Acts 19:15, where we read the response of the evil spirit to the activity of the seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, when this evil spirit answered, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?,we can easily find ourselves asking a similar question regarding the person of Mark, the alleged author of the second gospel account; ‘Matthew we know, and Luke we know, and John we know; but who are ye? We do not entertain, in this brief document, any thought of the question of the authorship of each of the four gospels. Much paper and ink has been employed toward that matter in the individual introductions found in the many commentaries available upon each of these gospel accounts. And while it is freely admitted that, technically speaking, each of the four gospels is anonymous, and that there is little, if any, internal evidence of authorship, our question actually presumes to accept the traditional views of authorship; that Matthew was indeed Matthew the publican who became one of the twelve, a.k.a. Levi, and that our Luke is he that is both author of the gospel and the Acts who is spoken of by Paul (Colossians 4:14) as the beloved physician, and that the gospel ‘according to John’ was written by him who, as one of the twelve, leaned upon the Savior’s breast at the occasion of the Last Supper. While there is also presumed tradition in favor of the author of the second gospel being Mark, very little seems to be known of Mark. It may be countered that we know little about Matthew, Luke, and John. However, we do know, and that is from internal evidence, that Matthew was a tax-collector that became a disciple and one of the twelve; that Luke was a physician that accompanied Paul in many of the apostle’s travels, and that John was the brother of James and son of Zebedee, who were fishermen, and that this John, like Matthew, became one of the twelve. Along with these, comparatively little is known of Mark. Who was he; what was he?

There are but eight occurrences in the New Testament of the mention of anyone named Mark. If we are to presume each of these eight representations as the same person, they will give us something of a picture of who and what our author is and was. Four of those occurrences are found in the book of Acts. In Acts 12, we are given the account of the seizure of Peter; how that he was imprisoned after Herod had killed James, and also how the ‘big fisherman’ was liberated by an angel. After this liberation, we are told that Peter came to the house of Mary the mother of John whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together and were praying. We are not told, in this instance, anything else at all about this personage, only that his tandem name might be John Mark. In the final verse of the same twelfth chapter of Acts, we are once more introduced to an individual of that name:

And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministration, taking with them John whose surname was Mark.—Acts 12:25.

That this was the John of Acts 13:5 whom Barnabas and Saul had as their attendant should probably not be questioned, especially when coupled with 12:25. So then we find John, whose surname was Mark, travelling with Barnabas and Saul on this, their first missionary journey. Still, we really don’t know anything more than that about him. Not far down the page, to put it that way, we may learn something more sbout this individual. In 13:13, after that Saul has become to be called Paul, we are told that this ‘attendant’ John Mark, after that the small company had come to Perga in Pamphylia, departed from them and returned to Jerusalem. We are not informed of the reason of his departure. Was it fear? Was it a disagreement? Was he homesick? We simply are not told. We don’t have sufficient information to call him a deserter, and yet he appears to have deserted Barnabas and Paul.

Our next confrontation with this young man is in Acts 15 when Barnabss and Paul are about to set out on a return visit to the churches that had been formed on their initial journey. Barnabas wished to take with them John, who was called Mark. Paul, however, was adamantly opposed to taking with them him who withdrew from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. This suggests, at the very least, that whatever Mark was, Paul thought of him as a deserter. Sadly, the contention between Barnabas and Paul was so sharp that they parted asunder. Paul chose Silas and went away with him, while Barnabas took Mark with him. If this were the entirety of our exposure to Mark, it would be an unhappy thing indeed, But rather happily, we meet with this person yet again in Paul’s epistles. There are many practical lessons to be gleaned from this history. We could employ the trite, but yet very true, axiom that ‘the best of men are but men at best.’ While we cannot place the fault singly with any of these servants of God, we are confronted with the truth of that axiom. Paul said of himself, that when he would do good evil was present with him. This is the reality we all must face. John reminds us painfully, If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. But we also have set before us in the history of Mark, the great grace of God bringing about reconciliation. We are provided ‘the rest of the story’ in Paul’s epistles to Timothy and Philemon, with a further comment by Peter in his first epistle.

Reconciliation is conspicuous in the language of the apostle to his young ‘understudy’ Timothy, when he writes to him (2 Timothy 4:11) informing him, that, while he is in prison Only Luke is with me. but he continues, Take Mark, and bring him with thee; for he is useful to me for ministering. This young man who deserted Paul at one time, is now said to be useful to him. There has, without doubt, been a wonderful reconciliation between Paul and Timothy. How marvelous is the grace of our God expressed in the love of the saints one for another! Mark is among those whom Paul refers to, when writing Philemon, as his fellow-workers. And lastly, Peter can refer to Mark, in his first epistle, as Mark my son. Marvelous grace of our loving Lord! Let us never doubt His ability to bring His people together, even after terrible differences. All praise to God; He will never leave us, nor forsake us.

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church

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