John Mark was believed to be the author of the first gospel written, the New Testament book of Mark. Even though he was not an apostle himself, John Mark was also known to be a companion of the apostle Peter. In fact, it is thought that the gospel of Mark may largely consist of the recorded preaching of Peter that was arranged and shaped for the needs of the early Christian communities specifically to the church in Rome.
Did you also know that this is the same man who accompanied Saul (also known later as Paul) and Barnabas on a missionary journey? (Acts 12:25) (Acts 13:4) However, John Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13) There have been many reasons speculated over time as why John Mark left them including homesickness to get back to Jerusalem, an illness of Paul that necessitated a change in plans, and a change in leadership from Barnabas to Paul.
Acts 15: 36-40 tells us that as Paul and Barnabas prepared for a second missionary journey, Barnabas wanted to take John Mark with them. However, Paul did not think it wise to take him. Unfortunately, they had such a strong disagreement that Paul and Barnabas parted ways. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus while Paul chose Silas and went towards Syria.
Barnabas and Mark do not appear again in the book of Acts. So, what is the rest of the story? Was this a “split in the early church”? did they ever reconcile their differences? Was it “wrong” for John Mark to “abandon” the work of the Lord and leave Paul and the others?
What does the Bible say about how to handle conflict? What does the Bible say about unity?
As Paul Harvey used to say, “here is the rest of the story….”
Look at Colossians 4:10. Approximately 12 years after the happenings in Acts, Paul sends greeting from Mark to the church in Colosse. Paul and Mark have apparently at some time reconciled the differences that they had. They put these aside to continue to spread the gospel. Even if we don’t see eye to eye with all of the members of the Lord’s church (and we all know that we won’t), we should still be able to work together. We will not be able to all agree on what is the best way to spread the gospel or the best works to put our dollars into. One group will think we need green carpet and pew cushions in the auditorium and another will want tan ones. One group of ladies will think the fancy glass cups and punch bowel should go in the special events room and the others will think it obviously should go in the kitchen. Or we might even have more serious issues to prayerfully discuss: do we add on to the building? Do we hire a new youth minister and which one? Should this man be appointed to be an elder?
But what happens when we don’t agree? Do we leave and go our separate ways? Is there forever a divide between us?
We do not know exactly how Mark and Paul were able to mend the fences that divided them. Nor do we know how long this took. But we do know that Paul wanted Timothy to bring Mark to him. (2 Timothy 4:11) Mark was with Paul when he was imprisoned in Rome. Mark was also called a “son” by Peter (1 Peter 5:13).
How much of a role did Barnabas play in this reconciliation? No one really knows. Barnabas’ real name was Joseph. He was a Levite from Cyprus whom the apostles call Barnabas (Acts 4:36). This means “Son of Encouragement”. Acts 4:37 tells us that Barnabas “sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.” As a Levite, he would not have inherited land in Palestine. He was a very generous giver.
After the conversion of Saul in Acts 9, many still did not believe or trust him. They were still afraid of him. After all, the disciples and others had watched Saul persecute and put to death many believers including Stephen. But Barnabas took Saul and brought him to the apostles. He told them about his conversion and his preaching the gospel in Damascus (Acts 9:27-28). The church in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to Antioch. There he “encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.” (Acts 11:23-24) Barnabas was an encourager to Saul. He went down to Tarsus and brought him to Antioch. They stayed there for a whole year. This is where the disciples were first called Christians. (Acts 11:25-26). I can only imagine how much of a mentor that Barnabas was to Saul in this year. The hours of study and preaching and long talks that they must have had. I can only imagine the encouragement that Barnabas was to Saul.
Barnabas then become a constant companion of Saul’s and accompanied him on the first missionary journey. The Scriptures say that Saul and Barnabas were directed by the Holy Spirit to do the work for which I have called them (Acts 13:2) Paul and Barnabas preached here… Paul and Barnabas traveled here…. Paul and Barnabas appointed elders (Acts 14:23). They were inseparable companions. They were two peas in a pod. They were besties!
Until, Barnabas and Paul had a disagreement over John Mark. At that point, Paul and Silas went to revisit the towns they had established churches in while Barnabas and John Mark sailed for Cyprus (Acts 15). After that, we do not know what become of Barnabas. However, I find it hard to believe that he did not somehow play a part in the reconciliation of John Mark and Paul later down the road.
The church of today needs more men and women like Barnabas. We need more “encouragers”. Instead of The Avengers or The Incredibles, we need The Encouragers! We need to remember that we are all in different destination points in our faith. Some of us may still be drink milk and not eating steak. We may not all be as strong as Paul. We may not have “grown up in the church”. We need to meet people where they are at in their faith and encourage them to bloom and grow.
The rest of the story is that the church today needs to have a united front. We need to reconcile our differences. We need to fix the broken bridges and mend the fences. We may have differing thoughts about how the gospel should be spread. There is one church, one Lord, one baptism. We may have different opinions and feelings, but we should be ONE in the Lord.
By Charity Goben
Charity has been married to her husband, Rick, for 21 years. They worship at the Garriott Rd. church of Christ in Enid, OK where Rick serves as a deacon and Charity is actively involved in teaching Bible classes for women and children. Rick and Charity have been blessed with two teenage daughters through adoption. Charity has been a Physician Assistant for 20 years.