Help Them Up
Robert Wurtz II
Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry. (2 Timothy 4:11)
Demas having forsaken Paul, he now longs to have Mark, the young man that he once rejected (Acts 15:37ff) brought to him. John Mark had once forsaken Paul and Barnabas (son of encouragement) as he went back while on a mission. Barnabas determined to take John Mark again, but Paul refused. They both stood their ground and ended up dividing asunder from one another. Barnabas went his way and took John Mark. Paul went another way and took Silas. John Mark deserved to be rejected in this situation because he was not proven for such a difficult mission. Rejection is a terrible feeling. Do you recall a time when maybe you wanted to go somewhere with your parents and they left you behind? That feeling of rejection never improves. Perhaps we could say that Barnabas was also right to give John Mark a break as well. In my view, both Paul and Barnabas were right from each point of view. John Mark was ‘down’, but will Paul keep him down?
A helping hand
I shall never forget as a child seeing a younger boy slipping into the river- near to be swept away by the rushing water. The look on his face is forever etched into my mind. He was in desperate need of help. The other boy that was with us just laughed as if it were funny. At once we pulled him to safety. I have reflected on this very picture from time to time. Imagine a brother or sister almost swallowed up in some sin or scandal and that desperate look of hopelessness and fear is on their face (as it were). And the only thing standing between them and certain destruction is the mercy of their fellow man. Will we toss them a life preserver or will we throw them the anchor? How would we want to be treated?
Not Let Up
Have you ever known of a person to make a mistake or suffer some failure and people (in a general sense) just won’t let them live it down? They make a mistake at school and suddenly they are identified with that one mistake or failure for the rest of their lives. Forget the fact that they have lived and accomplished all sorts of things; they have a failure and now they are marked for life. Convicted felons deal with this phenomena every day of their life. Having paid their debt to society, often society is not satisfied. Professional athletes make one mistake and suddenly they are identified with that mistake. It is obscene. But there it is. Fallen man loves to get a person down and then refuse to let them up. Perhaps it gives a sense of greatness to the one looking down at their fallen neighbor. Whatever the reasoning one thing is sure, we always offer a hand up to the people we love.
A Changed Opinion
Sometimes when ministers teach or preach on the life of John Mark we are left with the impression that it was not until 2 Timothy 4:11 that Paul finally saw some usefulness in John Mark. But this is not the case at all. Paul had long ago changed his opinion of John Mark as we see in Colossians 4:10. Acts 15 took place circa 50-54 CE and the writing of Colossians took place ca. 60-64 CE.
Apparently Mark had matured and made good in his ministry. We have this description by Marvin Vincent, “John Mark is mentioned in Colossians 4:10; Philemon 24 and 1 Peter 5:13. Probably the same John Mark as in Acts 12:12, 25; 15:37. He is called the “cousin of Barnabas” (Colossians 4:10). The first mention of him since the separation from Paul in Acts 15:39 occurs in Colossians and Philemon. He is commended to the church at Colossae. In 1Peter 5:13 he sends salutations to Asia (Marcus ‘my son’). In both Colossians and Philemon his name appears along with that of Demas. In Colossians he is named shortly before Luke and along with Aristarchus. He (Mark) is about to come to Asia where 2nd Timothy finds him. The appearance in Colossians of Aristarchus with Mark and of Demas with Luke is probably the point of connection with the representation in 2 Timothy.” These occurrences leave little doubt that John Mark had been fully restored to the ministry by both Peter and Paul by 60-64 CE. This means his hiatus was no longer than 10 years and could be as short as 7 years (if not shorter).
Profitable for the Ministry
Profitable for the ministry is euchreston diakonian (εὔχρηστος εἰς διακονίαν). Εὔχρηστος (euchreston) means profitable and is found here, chapter 2:21 and Philemon 1:11. (A.T. Robinson) This is the same word as is used when Paul writes Philemon concerning the runaway slave Onesimus; Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me (Philemon 11). Here we have Paul pleading with Philemon to restore the man. This was the established pattern of Paul’s life. In fact, in the case of Onesimus Paul told his slave holder that if Onesimus had caused any financial loss he (Paul) would repay it. This is how convinced Paul was of change in the man, and how willing he was to restore when he identified the change.
Modern Attitudes Contrasted
Christians today may remember John Mark as the young guy that abandoned Paul and Barnabas, but by the time his life ran its course it is plausible that the people didn’t care anymore. They took their eyes off the past failure and placed it on a present reality. It is the world’s business to get people down and hold them down (as the masses laugh and jeer). Its what they do. They love to laugh at and mock people. But it ought not so to be in the churches of God. We need to let them up. Not ‘just’ let them up, but help them up. We need to let people get past their past. We need to forget those things which are behind; not just our own failures, but the failures of others. The Golden Rule is in play. None of us would like to be remembered for something that happened 1, 5, 10, 20, 30 years ago. We ought to convey to others the same mercy we would want for ourselves.