John Mark is the unnamed author of the Gospel of Mark. He was an unlikely candidate to write perhaps the earliest gospel since he was not an apostle, scholar or brave person. But he is a picture of how God can work in us.
We first see Mark after Peter’s angelic release from prison in Jerusalem when he goes to the house of Mary who was Mark’s mother (Acts 12:12). He likely knew Peter during the formative years of the church.
A year or so later Barnabas and Saul (Paul) head north to Antioch “taking along with them John, who was also called Mark.” John was his Jewish name and Mark was his Gentile name. He is being mentored by Paul and Barnabas, Mark’s cousin.
Within a year at Antioch God calls Barnabas and Saul to their first mission trip (Acts 13). They go to Cyprus and “also had John as their helper.” Before they got very far it says, “John left them and returned to Jerusalem.” (Acts 13:13).
About two years later Barnabas and Saul are back reporting to the church at Antioch (Acts 14). Soon they are ready for a second missionary trip. Acts 15:37ff says Barnabas wanted to take Mark again. “But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them…” (v.38a). Therefore, Paul and Barnabas had a “sharp disagreement” and parted. Barnabas took John Mark with him to Cyprus.
It is roughly ten years until we see Mark again. He is now with Paul who is in prison in Rome. Paul speaks of him warmly and sends greeting from them to the church of the Colossians (Colossians 4:10). In 1 Peter 5:13 Peter also sends greeting from the church in Rome, “along with my son Mark,” to the saints in Asia Minor. Paul also calls Mark “my fellow worker” in Philemon 1:23. Something has changed.
Years later Paul is in prison for the last time and about to be martyred as he writes his final words to Timothy (I Timothy 4:11). “Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service.” What a turn around! Paul want Mark to be with him during this difficult time. Some time after Paul’s death Mark writes what we know of as the Gospel according to Mark. A quote that stuck with me recently said, “It is not how you start that counts but how you finish.”
Mark as a young man had a great opportunity to be under Paul and Barnabas; but he deserted. However, in time the Lord changed him and he ends up being a useful helper and servant to the apostles. He was not an apostle, a great scholar or a pastor but he was used by God as a writer of one of the inspired Gospels. We can change when we are submitted to the Gospel of Christ. What he writes in the Gospel with his name on it will change you as we study this amazing book Sunday mornings. The series is called MARK: Newspaper Version of the Gospel.