This morning I was reading a Bible passage (Acts 15) about Barnabas standing with John Mark because Paul refused to let John Mark join them on their next missionary journey. As I had previously learned, John Mark (known also as Mark, the author of the gospel of Mark) had been on the first missionary journey with Barnabas and Paul, but left them to go back to Jerusalem. Little is said about why Mark left, but his decision to leave certainly fell short of Paul’s expectations, so much so tht when the second missionary journey was being planned and Barnabas recommended that Mark be one of the companions, Paul would not hear of it. He felt Mark’s failure during the first journey was justification to keep him from this opportunity. Neither men compromised, although I get a sense that Paul was more of the obstinate one in this situation. In the end Paul and his companions (minus Barnabas and Mark) were commended by the elders and leaders of the church in Antioch and were sent out on their second missionary journey with the grace of God. In contrast, Barnabas left with Mark, without any noted attention by those same leaders, and headed off in another direction to minister in Cyprus.
I wonder…what was Barnabas’ reasons for standing up for his nephew, Mark? Was it a natural affinity or deep sense of compassion that existed within the family relations that compelled Barnabas to stand by him? I sense a spiritual maturity in Barnabas that had not yet been revealed in Paul’s character at this point in his ministry (it would come later). Barnabas may have felt his participation in the second missionary journey would have been fruitful and God honoring, but by going along with Paul, Barnabas would be leaving behind his nephew who was just sternly rejected by Paul due to Mark’s previous failure and I would not doubt if he was feeling pretty low. Being more spiritually mature, Barnabas may have thought, “if I don’t stand with him, believe in him, one who is of my own blood, then who will? He would feel abandoned and left to flounder and then what good would he be to the Kingdom?” Ultimately, Barnabas gave up his plans with Paul, linked up arms with Mark, and set off in another direction not knowing what would come of it. In hindsight, we know that Barnabas’s plans were no less anointed by God than the other group. With seemingly no noted commendation or recognition by the church, one may have felt second-rate or overlooked, and I would not find it hard to believe if I learned this situation caused Barnabas some pain given his involvement in the church. In the end, however, God honored Barnabas’ convictions and decision to stand by his nephew which transpired into Mark becoming a significant part of Biblical history. To make for an even more satisfying ending to this story, God, through Barnabas, re-established John Mark in ministry to a point where Paul himself stated Mark was an invaluable part of the ministry.
Thank you to those Barnabas’s in our life who decided to take the unknown and possibly lonely road in order to stand with us so we didn’t flounder, to love us unconditionally and to witness the plans and purposes that God has for our lives. Your personal sacrifices may have seemed to have gone unnoticed, but not by us and certainly not by our loving and all knowing heavenly Father. We love you.