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).

Quitting

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. Every local church needs a Barnabas.

Leaving Cyprus the missionaries sailed across the Mediterranean Sea to Pergo where John Mark decided to quit and 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 boyhood days. His birthplace was in these parts. 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 reminding them of all that God had done for them since He led them out of the land of Egypt hundreds of years before (vv. 16-22). Then he told them how God had sent a Savior, but how the rulers in Jerusalem had put him to death, and God had raised Him from the grave (vv. 23-31). The people wanted to hear more, so invited him to come back the next week. This time the synagogue was jammed, and hostility emerged. It was not so much from what he preached, but rather the fact that so many people came to hear Paul and Barnabas, and the rulers of the Jews were jealous.

Application

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 13:13-31 (English Standard Version)

Now Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. And John left them and returned to Jerusalem, but they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. And on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent a message to them, saying, "Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it." So Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said: "Men of Israel and you who fear God, listen. The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it. And for about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness. And after destroying seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance. All this took about 450 years. And after that he gave them judges until Samuel the prophet. Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, 'I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.' Of this man's offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised. Before his coming, John had proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. And as John was finishing his course, he said, 'What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but behold, after me one is coming, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.' "Brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to us has been sent the message of this salvation. For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him. And though they found in him no guilt worthy of death, they asked Pilate to have him executed. And when they had carried out all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people."

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