A Bible Story: My Son John Mark (As Remembered By His Mother Mary)
What might John Mark's mother possibly have said about him?
John Mark has always been a son to be proud of, though I tell you this not in the sense of prideful boasting.
He learned well, and God blest his learning that it might one day serve God's own purposes. I, named Mary, and Mary the mother of Jesus of Nazareth, have both been blest that my son was chosen by hers and has served hers well.
My father's family was blest to be a family of Levites, and my brother Barnabas was disposed kindly to John Mark and treated him as if he were his own son when I was left a prosperous widow in Jerusalem.
Just as my brother saw promise in John Mark, a promise confirmed by Jesus, so also Barnabas had insisted that John Mark receive his classical education and in the process also learn to speak, read, and write the language of the Greeks.
John Mark was a willing and quick student. How God would use this skill he could never have imagined during his days as a student.
As a mother, and other mothers will surely agree, when your son is nearby you want him with you at home. Thus it was that John Mark, Jesus, and the other disciples, were sometimes at my comfortable home on their infrequent visits to Jerusalem. (I was even questioned by the authorities as to whether or not Jesus had taken his last supper with his apostles at my home. I simply replied with a question as to whether those authorities had given Jesus any last supper before they falsely had him crucified!)
I was early persuaded that Jesus is the Christ, not alone from the recountings of his gospel by John Mark, but also from my own knowledge and observation.
Surrounding Jesus, his apostles, and we early Christians, the swirl of emotions was incredible.
At first I shared it in the excitement John Mark displayed when he spoke of the Master, then I felt my own excitement and joy from being in the Master's presence, followed by the dual fears we all had for how Herod, or the Romans, or both, might respond to Jesus' growing popularity, to say nothing of how imperfectly the elders of the Jews understood him. And those were too soon coupled with the Jewish elders' growing jealousy, and finally their determination to see the Master put to death.
Those indeed were exciting days of concern, then tragedy, then despair, followed by rejoicing at the Master's resurrection and the fulfillment of his first coming.
In all of this, John Mark observed, questioned, learned, and grew in his understanding of the gospel, and it was at our home that many of the earliest meetings of the ongoing church were held.
John Mark accompanied Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary trip, but left them in Perga to return home before them.
Barnabas, on his return to Jerusalem, urged John Mark to accompany him once again. Barnabas was a good man, and having sold his possessions and given the proceeds to the apostles, he was free and determined to spread the gospel. He encouraged John Mark to greater efforts and travels for that same purpose.
When once again John Mark did have occasion to travel with Barnabas' friend Paul, his travels eventually took him to Rome, where he was first with Paul, and then with Peter.
Peter spoke little Greek, and with the martyrdom of Paul, it became urgent that Peter work quickly among those Christians in Rome to solidify their faith and the works of the church there.
John Mark became Peter's interpreter as Peter spoke to group after group, recounting Jesus' teachings.
Even after Stephen's martyrdom, the feeling had been strong that the angels, recounting of how Jesus would return in glory, had meant that Jesus would soon return.
With the death of Paul, and then of Peter, both at the hands of the Romans, John Mark realized, without a written history of Jesus' teachings, the purity of those teachings (if not the teachings themselves) could be lost.
It was then that he performed what may have been his greatest accomplishment. John Mark recorded the first of the books of the gospel based on his knowledge, his repeated interpreting for Peter of Peter's recollections, and his knowledge from Paul and from Barnabas.
What else he does with his unique life, I must learn in the hereafter, for I pass the way of all flesh, comforted in the knowledge that I raised a good son, whose life has served a worthy purpose in the high calling to which he was called, even to the service of Jesus Christ, our Master, redeemer of those also who will believe and serve as we have tried to serve. Amen.
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The Apostle John Mark (St. Mark)
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