Today, we’ll visit TruthforLife.org for a sermon by Alistair Begg.
Sermon link: Friendship Matters
The Apostle Paul faced his approaching death with confidence in God, but also with real vulnerability. In this message from the concluding verses of 2 Timothy, Alistair Begg directs our attention to the important roles that Luke, Mark, and Tychicus played in the life and ministry of Paul. By their loyalty and usefulness, these men illustrate the practical value of faithful ministry to Christ and the providence of God in ordering even missteps and failures for His glory.
2 Timothy 4:11-13 (ESV)
11 Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. 12 Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. 13 When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments.
John called Mark
Now, for a little background (some of which Alistair Begg will provide), let’s take a walk through Acts, noting where John called Mark interacted with the Apostle Paul. In chapter 12 of Acts, James killed and Peter imprisoned. God sends and Angel to free Peter from the inner jail, though Peter initially thinks it is a vision or a dream. Let’s pick up with the story in verse 11:
Acts 12:11-25 (ESV)
11 When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”
12 When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. 13 And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. 14 Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate.15 They said to her, “You are out of your mind.” But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!” 16 But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed. 17 But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, “Tell these things to James and tothe brothers.” Then he departed and went to another place.
18 Now when day came, there was no little disturbance among the soldiers over what had become of Peter. 19 And after Herod searched for him and did not find him, he examined the sentries and ordered that they should be put to death. Then he went down from Judea to Caesarea and spent time there.
The Death of Herod
20 Now Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, and they came to him with one accord, and having persuaded Blastus, the king’s chamberlain,they asked for peace, because their country depended on the king’s country for food. 21 On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. 22 And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” 23 Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.
24 But the word of God increased and multiplied.
25 And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had completed their service, bringing with them John, whose other name was Mark.
So we see here introduced this John whose other name was Mark in the heart of what is going on among the brethren in Jerusalem. He is witness to the miracle of Peter’s release and probably to a great deal more. The Word of God increased and multiplied. Upon leaving Jerusalem, Saul and Barnabas brought along John-Mark as they returned to Antioch.
Acts 13:1-14 (ESV) | Barnabas and Saul Sent Off
13 Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
Barnabas and Saul on Cyprus
4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. 5 When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John to assist them. 6 When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. 7 He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. 9 But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him 10 and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? 11 And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand. 12 Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord.
Paul and Barnabas at Antioch in Pisidia
13 Now Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. And John left them and returned to Jerusalem, 14 but they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. And on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down.
The Holy Spirit sends Paul and Barnabas out on a missionary journey, and John-Mark goes with them to assist. We aren’t given much detail on the matter, but for whatever reason, John-Mark leaves the mission at Perga in Pamphylia to return home to Jerusalem. There could have been some majorly compelling reasons for why John-Mark chose to return to Jerusalem, or it could simply have been fear or immaturity. Whatever it was, the Holy Spirit did not include it in Scripture. Suffice it to say that it left a mark on Paul. Paul and Barnabas travel throughout the region preaching the Word of Christ. Meanwhile, the council of Jerusalem regarding the matter of Gentile Believers and the Mosaic Covenant convened. Paul and Barnabas returned to Jerusalem to testify of the Holy Spirit’s work among the Gentiles, and the council came to an agreement and drafted a letter to be sent out to those outside of Jerusalem. We pick up in Acts 15:22.
Acts 15:22-41 (ESV) | The Council’s Letter to Gentile Believers
22 Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers, 23 with the following letter: “The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the brothers who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia,greetings. 24 Since we have heard that some persons have gone out from us and troubled you with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions, 25 it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. 28 For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: 29 that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”
30 So when they were sent off, they went down to Antioch, and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. 31 And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. 32 And Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, encouraged and strengthened the brothers with many words. 33 And after they had spent some time, they were sent off in peace by the brothers to those who had sent them. 35 But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.
Paul and Barnabas Separate
36 And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” 37 Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
Barnabas chose to mentor John-Mark while Paul chose another to travel with him to do the work of the ministry. Too often, this becomes a matter of friendships being broken or family discord, but this was about the work of the ministry. Paul sought to encourage and strengthen the planted churches and John-Mark was not up for the task. Barnabas, on the other hand, felt led to pour into John-Mark’s life, to nurture him, to equip him for the ministry. Luke goes on to follow Paul’s ministry rather than that of Barnabas, but in Paul’s letter to Timothy, we see that John-Mark becomes a particularly useful brother in the faith. Despite all that has taken place, most of it not recorded, when Paul was at the end of his race, he wanted the company of friends… of whom John-Mark was mentioned by name.
May God bless you and keep you,
In Christ Jesus,