Paul and Barnabas Say Farewell to John Mark

Ten years ago for every wife who left her family, 600 husbands did. Today for each man who leaves, two women do. (Starting Over, Swindoll, 1977, p. 20).


So far the order has always been Barnabas and Saul (Acts 13:2). It was Barnabas who had set out as the leader of this expedition. But now it is Paul and Barnabas. Paul has assumed the leadership of the expedition; and the lovely thing about Barnabas is that there is no word of complaint from him. He was a man prepared to take the second place, so long as God’s work was done. 

Leaving Cyprus, the missionaries sailed across the Mediterranean Sea to Pergo where John Mark decided to return to Jerusalem (v. 13). What caused him to leave is open for speculation. Perhaps he was unhappy in the change of leadership, as Paul began to take over the leadership from his cousin Barnabas. As a devoted Jew he may have felt uncomfortable with the emphasis on ministering to Gentiles. Possibly he was afraid, as the party moved into new and dangerous places on the road over the Taurus Mountains to Antioch of Psidia. Paul was in a neighborhood familiar to him since his youth. History tells us these mountains were infested with pirates and full of wild beasts. Some think John Mark went home because he was homesick. Whatever the reason, Paul considered it a defection, and did not want him back (Acts 15:37-38).

When the travelers came to a town in the mountains, they went into the synagogue where Paul was asked to preach (vv. 14-15). He began by recounting Israel’s history for them. In Egypt the Lord grew them as a nation, and through Moses, He led them safely out of Egypt (v. 17). For 40 years He was with them in the wilderness (v. 18). He destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, giving that land to their ancestors (v. 19). For 450 years He gave them judges to protect and lead them until the time of Samuel (v. 20). When they asked for a King, He gave them Saul, and when Saul failed, He raised up David to replace him (vv. 21-22). David was a man after God’s own heart who did the will of the Lord. Jesus is of the line of David, the fulfillment of God’s promise to David (v. 23; 2 Samuel 7:12-16). John the Baptizer preached repentance, but he recognized that one was coming after him who was far better than him (vv. 24-25). 


Have I ever been tempted to quit like John Mark did? I’m not sure, but I just need to remember that quitting is serious business. God’s grace is sufficient (II Cor. 12:9).

Acts 13:13-25 (English Standard Version)

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