Acts 15:36–41 And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” 37 Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
Paul and Barnabas were soul brothers. Together they healed the lame, preached the gospel, planted churches, and endured much tribulation. They had spent hundreds of days together and travelled thousands of miles down the desert roads. As the “Dynamic Duo” of first century Christianity, they had done much in service to the King of Kings. However, despite their faithful labor, Paul was not yet ready to purchase the house on the lake and begin his retirement years. He longed to retrace his steps and encourage his disciples. There was no one he would rather take along than Barnabas.
Barnabas agreed; he too was very willing to labor on for Christ. However, he proposed they bring John Mark with them on their second missionary journey.
Paul disagreed; he was somewhat flabbergasted by this suggestion. He remembered how John Mark had deserted them on their first campaign. John Mark had started well, but he had ended poorly. He had put his hand to the plow, and then turned away. He was a double-minded man, undependable, and unstable in all his ways. He was a failure, a ministerial loser, or a quitter. Paul was convinced he would prove himself soft and fickle again. To Paul, this was a horrible idea.
Paul was consumed with the mission; Barnabas with the man. Paul was consumed with the Christian work; Barnabas with the Christian worker. Paul majored on excellence and efficiency; Barnabas on encouragement. And it was at this point, sadly, that the “soul brothers” became “separated brothers.” Both were convinced they were correct. Neither would relent. Ultimately, Paul went north with Silas while Barnabas sailed south with John Mark.
But now for the rest of the story. It is my conclusion that Paul was possibly wrong, but Barnabas was definitely right. John Mark was worth the second chance. Ultimately, John Mark finished the long missionary campaign with Barnabas. As he matured, he was utilized and appreciated by Peter (1 Peter 5:12-14); greatly valued by a later and more mature Paul (Colossians 4:10; Philemon 1:24; 2 Timothy 4:11); and became the one chosen by the Holy Spirit to pen the second Gospel of Jesus Christ. John Mark was a quitter. However he quit quitting, and Barnabas quit quitting on the quitter.
Perhaps four questions will guide you in your prayer time.
1. Do you value the church as did Christ, Paul, Barnabas and John Mark? Are you ready to fervently labor for Christ’s bride until he removes you from your mission field?
2. Have you made vows before God and man, and have you quit? Perhaps you have vowed to stay married till the day of death, but you are walking away from your commitment? Perhaps you have joined a church and made vows to submit, worship, grow, serve and give, but you have been apathetic or AWOL for quite some time. Have you started a time of daily devotions only to fall away … again? Or maybe you have said “No!” to a certain sin, only to find yourself playing with that forbidden fire yet again. In what ways have you disappointed the Lover of your soul?
3. What will you do now? Will you quit being a quitter? God gave a second chance to Moses. The Father gave a second chance to his prodigal son. Jesus gave a second chance to Peter and all the disciples. Barnabas gave a second chance to Mark, and you can repent, recommit and rock on for Christ today. Yes you quit. And yes, Jesus died for your sin of quitting. And yes, Jesus would have you get up now and carry on.
4. Are you a leader or member in a church that quits quitting quitters? The Good Shepherd is not satisfied with a 99% success rate. He arrives back at the sheepfold, finds one missing, and takes off to reclaim his precious lamb. As we look about us, there are many who have proven unreliable. There are many who have talked the talk and abandoned the walk. May we be like Barnabas – Sons of Encouragement – ready to disciple those who hate their former sin and are ready to quit quitting. Grace is sweet and needed, even after regeneration.