UB David + I'll B Jonathan, Inc.


Used with permission: Character by Character compiled by Selwyn Hughes and Trevor Partridge. Copyright © CWR (www.cwr.org.uk).




Scripture passages referenced and linked in this lesson are written out for your convenience on this page.

UB David + I'll B Jonathan, Inc.


Character by Character

Lesson 2: Mark


Scripture passages referenced and linked in this lesson are written out for your convenience on this page.

Mark: also known as John Mark

A praying mother

A praying mother

Acts 12:1-16 (click the link to read the passages)

John Mark was a relative of Barnabas and the son of Mary, at whose home some of the early Christians met. It is generally thought that Mary was a fairly wealthy widow—wealthy enough to have at least one servant and a house large enough to accommodate a group of praying Christians.

It is thought that the early Christians met in a number of different homes—those associated with James apparently meeting in another place (see Acts 12:17).

Peter made his way to Mary’s home

When King Herod imprisoned Peter, the early Christians met in this house to pray for his release. God answered their prayer and upon being given his freedom, Peter made his way to Mary’s home, where he knew his fellow Christians would be gathered. Mark, it would appear, had the priceless blessing of a praying mother as he embarked upon a life of Christian service.

For thought and contemplation:

The influences that flow from a home that is dedicated to prayer are beyond all telling. The prayer meetings in Mary’s house not only brought release to Peter, but laid a solid understanding of God’s presence and power in the heart of John Mark. Is your house a house of prayer?

“These I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” (Isaiah 56:7, NIV)

A traveller with Paul

Acts 12:19-25; 13:1-5 & 13

Paul is then welcomed into fellowship

Although Saul of Tarsus had been genuinely converted and had committed his life to Jesus Christ, the Christians in the Church at Jerusalem were still highly suspicious of him. Barnabas, the cousin of John Mark, intervenes and vouches for him to the leaders of the church. Paul is then welcomed into fellowship, and some time later he and Barnabas are commissioned by the Church at Antioch to go on their first missionary journey.

he decides to abandon the trip

Mark sets out with them also to assist them in their travels, but for some reason, when they arrive at Perga he decides to abandon the trip and return to Jerusalem. Subsequent events reveal that Paul views this action of John Mark’s with a good deal of disgust, and considers him a deserter in the cause of bringing Christ to the heathen world.

For thought and contemplation:

No one can be quite sure as to the reason for John Mark’s desertion. Some think it was cowardice; others, that he was homesick. How tempting it is to sit in judgment on a person’s apparent failure. Perhaps we ought to consider more carefully our Lord’s words: “Do not judge, and you will not be judged.”

“…I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14, NIV)

Close to Barnabas

Acts 15:35-41

Paul and Barnabas, having returned to Antioch from their first missionary journey, now plan a second one. The intention this time is to visit the churches which were founded on their first excursion. Barnabas wishes to take John Mark with them once again, but Paul thinks otherwise. In fact, so sharp is the disagreement between them that the partnership between Paul and Barnabas is broken and the planned itinerary divided.

Barnabas takes John Mark and heads toward Cyprus

Paul teams up with Silas, and Barnabas takes John Mark and heads toward Cyprus, his homeland (Acts 4:36). How Mark behaved and acted on that journey with Barnabas we do not know, but all further references to him in the New Testament testify to his worth in the life of the Church—suggesting that Barnabas’ confidence was not misplaced. There is little doubt that he profited much from his association with his cousin Barnabas, one of the leaders of the Early Church.

For thought and contemplation:

Some modern-day Christians make much of the principle of linking a younger Christian to an older and more experienced one. This certainly seemed to produce positive results in the life of John Mark. Perhaps we ought to implement this principle more in our church life. What do you think?

“But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel.” (Philippians 2:22, NIV)

Faithful co-worker

2 Timothy 4:1-11

through the short but important Gospel which he wrote

Although John Mark did not become a leading figure in the Early Church, as did Paul and Barnabas, he did much in a supporting role to contribute to the growth and development of the Christian message in the first century. Despite the fact that his first attempt at missionary work seemed to end in failure, and later cause a serious rift between Paul and Barnabas, he came back to make a great impact upon the Early Church—and later on the whole world—through the short but important Gospel which he wrote. One has only to read Mark’s Gospel to see how effectively he condenses the account of Christ’s life and ministry—a skill which he no doubt developed as he memorised or recorded the details of his journeys and contacts with the leaders of the Early Church.

For thought and contemplation:

Someone said: “The people we meet are part of God’s purposes for our lives.” Are you aware of the fact that your family relationships, your education and the people you have rubbed shoulders with in the past are part of God’s purposes in fitting you for the work that He has for you to do?

“For we are God’s fellow-workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.” (1 Cor. 3:9, NIV)

John Mark

A change of name usually corresponds with a crisis in life. In Mark’s case the name laid aside, John, was Jewish, and the name assumed or bestowed upon him, Mark (Marcus), was Roman. It is probable that the change marked his conversion from Judaism to Christianity, or his desire to spread his new faith among the Gentiles.

His Gospel is obviously intended for the use of Gentile Christians, and, according to an old and reliable tradition was written in Rome.

Restored to Paul

Colossians 4:10-11 & Philemon v. 24

Paul, when writing to the Colossians, makes reference to Mark

It might be thought that Paul’s point-blank refusal to take John Mark with him on his second missionary journey might have resulted in a permanent estrangement between him and the young disciple. Happily, however, this is not so. Paul, when writing to the Colossians, makes reference to Mark as one of his fellow-workers, and affirms that he is a comfort to him. Mark also teams up with Paul in sending greetings to the church of Colosse—yet another indication of the close relationship which now exists between them.

Perhaps the final and most revealing comment on this issue is seen in Paul’s letter to Timothy, when the great apostle once again tells of Mark’s great usefulness in the affairs of the Gospel, and asks that Timothy should bring John Mark with him when next he visits him (2 Tim. 4:11).

For thought and contemplation:

What if John Mark had given up when he learned how the apostle Paul viewed his initial failure? We would have had no Gospel of St. Mark! Has some failure in your life caused you to remain indolent and inactive? Then in Christ’s name, rise up and get to work. Take the first step to recovery—today.

“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 1:6, NIV)

Companion to Peter

1 Peter 5:1-13

John Mark was not only restored to full fellowship with Paul after his early failure in the ministry, but came to enjoy a close relationship with Simon Peter also (v. 13). Doubtless, his close relationship with Peter and Paul equipped him ideally for the task of writing his Gospel. One can imagine him listening intently to the stories which Peter had to tell concerning Jesus, asking questions, verifying the facts and making sure that he understood every detail.

One can imagine, too, that in his conversations with Paul, the theologian, he would learn the deep spiritual insights which had to do with the deeper meaning of Christ’s life here on earth. Many scholars believe Mark’s Gospel was the first of the four to be written, and that it was a source document for the later writings of Matthew and Luke.

For thought and contemplation:

When we see how affectionately both Paul and Peter regarded John Mark, we can see how wonderful and complete was his spiritual recovery. Peter called Mark “my son”, suggesting that he was one of Peter’s converts. As an exercise, write out 1 Peter 5:13.

“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.” (Gal. 6:1, NIV)

His Gospel theme

Mark 8:1-26 & 10:45

Jesus is presented as the Servant

In Mark’s Gospel, as in Isaiah’s prophecy, Jesus is presented as the Servant. The Gospel recounts what Jesus did as He moved around from place to place in the three and a half years of His ministry in Palestine. Events, in general, are dealt with in chronological order—evidence of the orderly and methodical mind which John Mark possessed.

In view of the fact that Mark emphasises the servanthood of Christ in his Gospel, the circumstances of Jesus’ birth and childhood are omitted. He opens with an account of the ministry of John the Baptist, and moves briskly through the events of Christ’s baptism to come to grips with the main purpose of his writing: an account of the public ministry of Jesus.

Mark presents Christ as the Servant

For thought and contemplation:

Mark presents Christ as the Servant, and his main theme can be discovered by focusing on Mark 10:45. Take a moment for a spiritual check-up, and ask yourself: how much of my life and ministry is spent in serving and ministering to others?

“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” (Phil. 2:6-7, NIV)

The lesson to be learned from Mark

“Very few Christians know unbroken progress in discipleship”, says R.E.O. White, “so Mark… has a special place in the hearts of those who know their own fallibility.” He also points out that Mark lived what many might consider to be a very ‘ordinary’ Christian life—no recorded visions, revelations, or unusual supernatural experiences—yet he was the one God used to write one of the most important books of the New Testament: the first and the closest to the actual events of all the ‘lives of Jesus’.

The great lesson to be learned from Mark is that it is gloriously possible to overcome failure, and come back to make a positive and lasting contribution to the Kingdom of God. He stands as a testimony to anyone who has erred or failed that, if he or she is willing to pick themselves up and try again, they can, with the Lord’s help, enter into a great and valuable ministry.

Used with permission: Character by Character compiled by Selwyn Hughes and Trevor Partridge. Copyright © CWR (www.cwr.org.uk).

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