Then I said, ‘See, I have come to do your will, O God’
    (in the scroll of the book it is written of me).”

Hebrews 10:7 (NRSV)

“He can’t go.”

Paul was fuming. Barnabas had already talked him into bringing his young cousin on their first missions trip, and the kid couldn’t even manage evangelizing Crete. Off he went, back home to Jerusalem, the first chance he got. Paul was done with that. He needed the spiritually mature on his team, believers with endurance and grit, with towering faith, who knew what it was to stick the course, obedient to God even unto death. Not kids.

Barnabas continued to reason with Paul in his gentle way. There was great potential in Mark. It was in his mother’s home where the Spirit had swept across all of Jesus’s original inner circle. A tongue of the Spirit’s fire had appeared over Mark just as with the others.

No, Paul shook his head with vigor. No.

“Well,” Barnabas had said with finality, “God has called me to mentor my cousin, and we will return to Crete together. You will have to do whatever it is you think God has for you to do.”

Paul eyed his partner with grim determination. It seemed they would part ways. And they did. (Acts 12:12, 25-13:13, 15:36-41)

Yet, years later, Paul realized how right Barnabas had been. The loss of them both had provided the space for Luke, and for his beloved student and friend, Timothy. Peter, who had remained in Jerusalem, now mentored Mark as his own student, loving him like a son (1 Peter 5:13). Paul thought of how Mark had grown in grace with God and favor with believers. (Colossians 4:10, Philemon 1:24). 

The apostle leaned his head close to the scrap of parchment, the candle flickering in his gloomy cell. Squinting, he wrote to Timothy, “Endeavor to come to me soon, for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this current age and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.” (2 Timothy 4:9-10)

In fact, now that Paul had been all but abandoned, he thought of John Mark’s enduring faith, serving God even when obedience had become so costly. “Luke alone is with me,” Paul wrote, “Taking Mark, bring him with you, for he is useful to me in ministry.” Paul knew both young men would come, for the Lord had their ear, and they would respond with yes, in Christ. (2 Timothy 4:11)

I thank my God for every remembrance of you … praying with joy for your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. … May your love overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what really matters, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:3-11)

Giovanni Francesco Barbieri – Saint Paul | By Guercino – Sotheby’s London, 08 Juli 2009, lot 28, Public Domain

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