Mark and the God of New Beginnings
Part 3 continued from October 5th
THE TRAGIC SPLIT
Then it happens, John Mark’s choice splits the greatest evangelistic team in history Acts 15:36-40.
Acts 15:36-40 Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.” 37 Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. 39 Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God.
When word of this got around it wasn’t Paul or Barnabus that got the heat – it surely was him. Branded by all who may have known him, Mark the Quitter, the Fearful, and the Failure.
Fast forward with me. Twenty years have passed. According to the nearly unanimous voice of scholarship over the centuries it was John Mark who became the personal helper to Peter. Much like Luke to Paul, John Mark helps the aged Peter.
As Mark sat to capture the words of Peter, inspired by God' Spirit – they probably sat in the dark torch lit passageways of over 600 miles of catacombs under the city of Rome had been found by Christians facing persecution. John Mark is no longer a failure; he is restored, renewed, and vital.
The world that Mark served the Lord in was a terrible time in history. Some of the most memorable pages of the History of Christ's Church are the years from AD 60 and 70. For half those years the hatred and evils of Nero had led to the random acts of fierce persecution upon Christians. Across the city of
Have you pondered how hard it must have been to be a Christian in those ten years? Yet in that dangerous time to even be a believer, Mark boldly wrote to the Romans of Jesus, the Servant Savior. And he did so seated next to Peter who had become the "Most Wanted" man of the day. Mark demonstrated the holy boldness Christ can bring into the lives of His children.
Ten generations of Christians, starting with Mark's generation, built and inhabited the Catacombs over a period of 300 years. In the early centuries of the church, the catacombs served as meeting and burial places for perhaps as many as four million Christians. A common inscription found on walls there is “The Word of God is not bound.” This hope shared by all believers was captured in the famous hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” as Martin Luther declared, “The body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still.”
Branded by all who may have known him as Mark the Quitter, Mark the Fearful, and Mark the Failure—we now see the God of New Beginnings at work. He takes the least likely person and uses them in an extraordinary way! We now have...
THE GOSPEL BY MARK
This same Mark writes a biography of encouragement to those living through the Roman persecutions and beyond. He weaves together Peter's eyewitness accounts, and the Holy Spirit's revelations into a fabric that portrays Jesus as the One who has suffered and triumphed for us. So we who are His can suffer and triumph through Him.
Is Mark unique? No!
Apart from the brief ministry of His own Son, the history of God’s work on earth is the history of His using the unqualified. Even the twelve disciples who became apostles were no exception. From the human standpoint they had few characteristics or abilities that qualified them for leadership and service. Yet God used those men, just as He did Noah, Abraham, and the others, in marvelous ways to do His work. God picks normal people and pours His grace on them. Satan wants our sins and failures to convince us to give up. But one look at the people of the Bible should defeat that temptation. The work of God is performed by weak individuals like us, surrendered to the God whose power is perfected in man’s weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). God has always had only weak and sinful humans to work with. Listen to the team God has used to win the championships:
Just after God allowed Noah to be the only dad on earth to survive the Global Flood and save his family--Noah goes on to become the first drunkard in the new world to shame himself and his family.
God uses a doubting and sometimes disobedient dad named Abraham to be the father of the faithful, he doubted God, lied about his wife, and committed adultery with her maid.
Lot the righteous (as Peter calls him in ) sees God in his uncle Abraham, yet chooses to live life so closely conformed to the lust filled people of Sodom, that he loses everything important in his life—his wife, his children, his honor, and his future reputation.
Isaac told a similar lie about his wife when he thought his life was in danger.
Jacob took advantage of his brother Esau’s weakness and extorted the birthright from him, so he was a cheat and liar and yet becomes the father of God's people
Moses was a murderer, and in pride he struck the rock instead of speaking to it as God had instructed, dragged his feet in obedience yet led and taught the people knowing God face to face.
His brother, Aaron, the first high priest, led
Joshua was fooled into disobeyed the Lord by making a treaty with the Gibeonites instead of destroying them.
Gideon had trouble trusting God at first, had little confidence in himself and even less in God’s plan and power.
Delilah repeatedly beguiled Samson because of his great lust for her.
David was a ladies man, committed adultery and murder, was an almost total failure as a father, and was not allowed to build the
Elijah stood fearlessly before 450 false prophets but cowered before one woman, Jezebel. From the exhilaration of
Ezekiel was brash, crusty, and quick to speak his mind.
Jonah defied God’s call to preach to the Ninevites and resented His grace when they were converted through his preaching.
All this to say the key is not the person God uses, it is the Lord! We are all unqualified to do what needs to be done so the key is a willing and responsive heart. That is all God is looking for! What happens when we let Him use us? Great things!
This message will conclude tomorrow October 7th as we look at “Mark’s Life is Encouraging”.
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