After some days, Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let’s travel to the regions where we’ve preached to Word of God and see how the believers are getting along.’ Barnabas wished to take Mark (also known as John) along with them, but Paul disagreed. He didn’t think it was proper to take the one who had deserted them in south-central Turkey, leaving them to do their missionary work without him. It became a heated argument between them, a disagreement so sharp that they parted from each other. Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus. And Paul chose Silas as his partner. (Acts 15:36-40)
I love the way the Bible tells it like it was, so we can trust it as it is! The Word Himself, Jesus, breathed all of Scripture, and obviously wanted us to know that there were rough days and sharp disagreements even between two of the most chosen, anointed, and holy men that ever lived: Paul and Barnabas. They were fighting, of course, over a third saint of God, Mark, who wrote the Gospel of Mark, (when he wasn’t out on the road with Barnabas, and later with Paul again…!).
Neither Paul nor Barnabas lost their salvation for getting into a heated argument. Both may well have been right, and both may well have been wrong. Still, God used even this argument to expand the Kingdom of God and to double the missionary presence coming out of Antioch.
What about Mark?
His leaving obviously left Paul and Barnabas in a lurch on the earlier trip. Why did Mark leave? We do not know—but the reasons must not have seemed that important, at least to Paul. The bottom line is, Mark left, and it caused some real problems…
As a church family, we have seen a few Marks’ leave over the years. Sometimes we knew the reason, sometimes we didn’t. Sometimes they seemed valid and sometimes they did not.
To “Barnabas” type leaders who operate in supernatural levels of compassion, their leaving and returning can be easily understood. To “Paul” type leaders, who operate in supernatural levels of truth and order, their leaving can seem like a betrayal of the ministry, if not the Gospel itself.
Mark must have been painfully aware of the division he caused—if not initially, at least later. I believe it was that pain which allowed the Lord to breath into and through Mark the Gospel he wrote down. Mark became so determined to not run away from the flack and the pain of ministry (as he had done as a naked boy the night of Jesus’ betrayal – see Mark 14:51-52) that he became the perfect vessel for a painfully clear rendition of the Good News we call the Gospel of Mark!
Here is my point for us: Just as Mark became a better man for leaving—and returning—so will many of those who have left our church—and many other churches—for whatever reasons they expressed or thought. Just as Mark came back, apologized to Paul and became “useful to him,” so Marks’ will return stronger and better to our church and to The Church…!
Our Lord is a “Restorer of the Breach.” In fact, that is one of His Names! He fixes the holes and the fights and the cracks and the breaks that happen to us and between us as believers. He made Mark a better man. He made Barnabas a better man. He made Paul a better man—and He brought them all back together again stronger and more mature than ever.
We welcome the return of the Marks’ in our lives to ministry, and we stand in awe of a God who can use the most painful things to make ALL of us better…!