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Rev. John Farmer’s ‘Reflections’ column

by John Howard Farmer

Visit the Irvington Baptist Church website

Success in serving others

A distillation of the mammoth work left by the late British/American theologian Herbert Lockyer (1886-1984) notes that John Mark was a Jew, a son of Mary. Mark reflects his Roman heritage. His Hebrew name was John. The use of both names associates him with the two major political powers of his day: Rome and Israel.

He was an apostle who really had no office among the original 12. We first heard about him from an account of a prayer meeting (hint, hint).

James had been beheaded by Herod. Peter was under arrest. Friends were gathered at the home of Mary, mother of John Mark, for prayer. Peter had been sprung free of his chains and cell. At the door of John Mark and his mother, Peter found the faithful hard at prayer.

John Mark’s mother, Mary, was a widow of some means who was an early disciple of Jesus. Her home was a frequent gathering spot of the new converts. Mark’s uncle, Barnabas, Mary’s brother, was a wealthy Levite from the Island of Cyprus (Acts 13:1-5). He was a mentor to young John Mark. The Bible does not disclose how it was that John Mark became a disciple. Perhaps it was his mother’s influence. Perhaps it was Peter’s influence. One does wonder?

Peter referred to him as Marcus, my son (I Peter 5:13). We read of Mark spending at least the next 12 years in the company of Peter. John Mark was also an ardent follower of Jesus, who became the Christ. In Mark 14:51 we read that Mark was the certain young man who stayed by Christ when the others for­sook him.

Later it seems as if Mark hitched his team to Paul and Barnabas as they began their notable mission journey. He would certainly have been an asset, with his family roots along the Mediterranean. So, we add Paul and Barnabas to the mentorship started by Peter. Mark profited greatly, becoming a man of impeccable credentials.

Yet there is a disappointing detour for Mark. He had a tendency to waver. He wasted precious momentum. There was a time when he failed Paul and Barnabas. It brought about the severance of friendly association. Fear of the future caused Mark to retreat. At Pamphyllia (a plain 80 miles long, 20 miles wide on the Southern coast of Asia Minor, between the Taurus Mountains and the Mediterranean), John Mark returned to Jerusalem. Paul thought better of having him along.

Years later John Mark recovered from his reticence and again became a trusted colleague of Paul. By the advent of Second Timothy 4:11 Paul is again praising Mark’s virtues. Toward the end of Peter’s life he was most affectionate towards the younger missionary.

Tradition has it that Mark became a bishop (pastor) and at life’s end joined the ranks of martyrdom. His faith cost him his life. As the Christian movement gained popularity, Mark’s body was disinterred and removed to Venice where it is reported to remain enshrined in the Cathedral of Saint Mark’s. Mark’s moniker graces the Heraldic standard of the Venice Republic.

Mark’s ministry was primarily to the Gentiles, a ministry basically for the Romans. His was a service to those in power. He represented the power of Christ to the powers of state.

His terse gospel, with its short, Spartan dispatch, exhibits an almost military-like preciseness: “Get ready.” In it we learn three major aspects of Christianity.

There are manifold blessings to having come from a godly home. His mother deserves a large part of the credit attributed to Mark. He had roots—foundations in faith—which carried him a lifetime. He came from a good home. Make note that he was apparently a kid from a single-parent home.

Those with whom we associate, we become. Good company breeds good results. Pick your friends carefully. Peter, Paul and Barnabas imparted enough wisdom so that when the young man recovered from his faults, there was a map to a higher road which Mark did eventually follow.

Be a possibility person. Use every advantage. Mark invested himself in the direction of the holy. He was a historian who still maintains an ardent following. “Get ready,” is a powerful message.

Be faithful in service. There is not one account of Mark performing one single miracle. There is no account of him ever preaching a sermon. He is great to our memory as a man who was faithful to his friends. He was a chap who went about helping others accomplish the great tasks of faith to which they had been called. John Mark was an enabler. That kind of service has its own reward. Every church needs enablers.

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