Albrecht Dürer - Head of St MarkWe know Mark’s mother was named Mary:
And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying. (Acts 12:12 KJV)
Peter felt comfortable heading for this home after the angel led him out of prison. Saul and Barnabas felt comfortable with Mark, too:
And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministry, and took with them John, whose surname was Mark. (Acts 12:25 KJV)
But that didn’t last long. Too soon John, whose surname was Mark, was the cause of a split between two great missionaries:
And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do. And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches. (Acts 15:36-41 KJV)
Paul’s disappointment in Mark was not only evident, it is translated as “contention”, enough to separate the two missionaries. Please note that it did not deter either one of them from continuing their ministry. They did not turn their backs on the mission Jesus set forth for all of us to share His teachings. It did, in fact, double the area covered since both Paul and Barnabas took someone with them. Barnabas and Mark sailed for Cyprus; Paul and Silas went through Syria and Cilicia.
I had the pleasure of visiting Cyprus and visiting a church that I was told had been started by Barnabas. Very possible, since Cyprus was his home:
And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, (Acts 4:36 KJV)
He certainly was a consolation to Mark! Which brings me back to the title question – Which one would you prefer? Paul or Barnabas?
Paul had every reason to not include Mark – he had failed them on a previous trip. Mark had not fulfilled Paul’s expectations and Paul was not willing to take another chance with him. Barnabas was willing, and did.
Much later, in Paul’s later letter to Timothy, we discover that Mark proved himself:
Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me: For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry. (2 Timothy 4:9-11 KJV)
The contention was gone. Mark is looked upon as being profitable to Paul for the ministry. Possibly because Barnabas took responsibility for him and mentored him during that contentious time. I appreciate that in a minister, even though I know full well that Paul had good reason not to trust Mark.
Can we be Barnabas to another’s Mark? Is there someone who has failed us so badly that there is contention – in families, between friends – and we could justify leaving them behind? If so, please consider being their Barnabas. I wish I knew how Mark felt, but that’s left untold. He may have been contrite, or he may have been contentious himself. But, after this mission trip, we do know that he was profitable for the ministry, to the very man who left him behind.