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Yesterday’s Unprofitable Assistant Now a Profitable Assistant

Updated on February 22, 2020

Studying the bible is always good. For years, I have been studying the bible and I found it wonderful


When things are not happening according to our plans or desires in life we quickly jump to conclusion on the thing. We do this because we are myopic of the future or what would happen some seconds after taken our decision.

On another note, when people we relied upon to do something for us fails to do the thing or when the person, we relied on misbehaves instead of given the person some chances, we are apt to conclude on what may necessitate that.

It is no lie that our experiences also make us to jump to conclusion quickly on some issues or things and or people in life.

Those who are zealous in certain areas of life when they interact with people who do not have the same kind of zeal as they have, those people are apt to conclude on why the person is acting the way the person is acting.

Unprofitable is defined as not bringing any advantage.

Paul in his itinerary feels a man who was accompanying them was not bringing any advantage to them thus, he suggests that he be excluded from the trip they want to make, but his partner, Barnabas felt otherwise, and this generated a lot of furor among them, such that Paul and Barnaba parted ways. An author said what happened was good for the expansion of the ministry (gospel), because as they went different ways, they could cover more grounds.

The person I want to talk about here is John Mark and the topic is taken from the book of second Timothy 4:11 but for us to have full grasp of this topic we shall have to see the incidents that happened earlier which makes Paul to take the decision he took.

Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry. (2 Ti 4:11)

Ellicott in his commentary says of all the companions of Paul, Luke was perhaps the closest, this may be due to his health. He was with him in the second and third missionary journeys and accompanied him to Asia and Jerusalem. When Paul was imprisoned, he was there (Acts 18). After Paul’s demise he was seen to be preaching in Gaul and he was among the martyrs.

6th-century Syriac inscription at the Monastery of St. Mark on Zion, beginning, "This is the house of Mary, mother of John Mark."
6th-century Syriac inscription at the Monastery of St. Mark on Zion, beginning, "This is the house of Mary, mother of John Mark." | Source

Briefly on John Mark

Mark, John was Son of Mary, cousin of Barnabas, assistant to Paul and Barnabas and conventionally the author of the second gospel. Five times mentioned in the bible (Act 12:12, 25; 15: 37, 39; 2 Ti 4:11) and at some other places he is called Marcus and John in the bible (Col. 4:10; 1 Pe. 5:13)

John in Greek is “Ἰωάννης”, Romanized form is Iōannēs (pronounced as ee-o-an'-nace) which means Joannes (Jochanan in Hebrew) while Mark in Greek is “Μάρκος” Romanized form is Markos (pronounced as mar'-kos) in Latin it is Marcus. says the name ̓Ιωάννης, is derived from the Hebrew יﯴחָנָנ׃֙ or יהﯴחָנָ֥ן meaning “Yahweh is gracious” and points to his Jewish heritage. Μάρκος, on the other hand, is the common Greek form of the Latin name Marcus and served as John’s “other name”. other examples of where Greek or Romans names of Jews were stated are in Acts 10:18 and 1:23 respectively. Those names may show Roman citizenship or previous life of a slavery. The nickname κολοβοδάκτυλος, or “stump-fingered,” was applied to John by some western authorities. While numerous elucidations have been advanced for this, it is most expected to take the nickname as referring to an authentic physical impairment, due to either congenital or accidental reasons to the man.

Online Wikipedia says, John Mark is mentioned as an assistant accompanying Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journeys. He was believed to the author of Gospel according to Saint Mark called Mark the Evangelist. He is being mentioned as “Joh, who was also called Mark” on different occasions in the bible.

And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying. (Act 12:12 other references Act 12:25; 13:5; 13:13-14; 15:37-38)

It would be of interest to note that the believers were gathered in the house of his mother for prayers when Apostle Peter was arrested and imprisoned in Acts 12. It is assumed that the house was large enough to accommodate the brethren then, who would yet be in thousands due to their dispersal because of the persecution.

Thus, for a person of her status to have a house that could accommodate such large number of people, she must be one of the wealthy ones around in Jerusalem then.

MacLaren in his commentary says, he was the son of a wealthy Christian woman in Jerusalem, whose house appears to have been the choice of the brethren very early after receiving the Holy Ghost. This becomes evident after Peter’s miraculous deliverance from prison. says John Mark wrote the gospel according to saint Mark in between AD 55 and 59 and he was presumably the person referred to as the young unnamed man in the book of Mark who covered Jesus nakedness with his coat and being afraid of being arrested and mobbed, he fled for his life.

And there followed him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him:

And he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked. (Mar 14:51-52)

Synopsis About John Mark’s Family

Position in Church
Bible References
Uncertain (probably dead)
Probably Wealthy
Acts 12:12
Acts 12:12-13
Acts 4:36-37
Probably Slave
Acts 12:13
Family friend/Spiritual father
1 Pet. 5:13

Table showing relationship with John Mark

Barnabas Country, Cyprus

What Happened Prior This

John Mark after Saul and Barnabas have been separated for the work commissioned unto them accompanied them to Seleucia; and from whence they moved to Cyprus, Salamis, Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia.

Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. (Act 13:1-2)

However, when he discovered that they were moving to Asia he left them and returned to Jerusalem.

Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem. (Act 13:13)

What he did was disgusting unto Paul and perhaps Barnabas, but it was not stated that Paul talked at this time, he kept it inside of him. He may be discussing it with Barnaba it wasn’t stated, but he must have grieved his mind such that he couldn’t let it go. And when Mark John joined them again when they return to Jerusalem and his cousin wanted him to be part of the journey, he considered it unworthy of him to be part of their journeys again.

Why He Left Them

There is no specific reason stated in the scriptures as to why John Mark left the team for Jerusalem, but the followings have been said to be the possible reasons by bible scholars and authors.

1. Leaning to Judaism

Pulpit commentary says indication in the narrative, coupled with Mark's subsequent attach-merit to Peter, that Mark rather leant at this time to Judaizing views, and that his previous departure "from the work". He may not have fully subscribed to evangelizing the gentiles like the apostles had at this time and having gone to Cyprus and other places and had seen what they were doing had been nursing the notion of leaving them when they get to where he could depart from them.

2. Fear of Famine

There had been prophecy by a prophet (Agabus) among them that there would be famine in the land, and the people have gathered relief materials which were sent to other believers in other lands.

And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar. (Act 11:28)

For the fear of the famine he may have returned to Jerusalem to be able to assist his mother since he perhaps has no father again.

3. Paul Taken over

Matthew Henry says Saul was called Paul for the first time here, Acts 13:13-14. He was seeing that the leadership of the team has changed from his cousin to Paul and decides to leave. Expositor’s Greek Testament says, maybe because Paul was becoming the chief speaker then, and he was supportive of his cousin. Sometimes unconsciously we become attached to some people and would be defending them through our actions.

4. Fear of Perils

In their itinerary, they first go to Cyprus the home of Barnabas. John them because he knows that place would be an easy ride for him. If it would be easy task, he was ready then but when it was becoming difficult and dangerous, he wasn’t ready for the work.

Same applies to the christian journey, there are people who would not venture into the race because of the stress, some who have initially joined the race have backed out when they met with some troubles on the way. Many of us are like John Mark too because the zeal with which we started the race has gone down we do not have such zeal for the work again.

Benson in his commentary opined that he may have turned back because where they were headed for was more dangerous than where they had ministered before because there was the celebrated temple to the Diana, thus he may have been terrified by the threatening speeches of priests, bigots and the associated dangers they want to undertake.

John Mark returns to Jerusalem
John Mark returns to Jerusalem | Source

Outcome of What he did

For some reasons though not stated but which scholars infer as above he left the team for Jerusalem. Barnes says though the reason for his return from them was unknown but what he did was blameworthy.

Sometimes in the future, Barnabas wanted John Mark to be part of their journey but this was turned down by Paul for what he did, leaving them at first instance.

And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark.

But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. (Act 15:37-38)

This led to argument between them such that they eventually parted ways. MacLaren in his commentary says, he was Barnaba cousin, for reasons not stated he left the apostles and return to Jerusalem. His cousin tried to reinstate him to their camp later, but this led to their separation.

And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; (Act 15:39)

Gill’s in his commentary says the Syriac version renders it, "but Paul would not take him with them"; and, the Ethiopic version is very expressive, though it renders it in softer language, "Paul prayed, or entreated Barnabas that he would leave Mark" because what he did was wrong and should be blamed for leaving them at Pamphylia. Arabic version adds not went with them to the work “of preaching” the Gospel.

Why Barnabas wanted to take Mark along

From says because he was his cousin and, on another note,, he thinks he should be given second chance he being a son of encouragement and has rallied round Paul himself when others deserted him and led him to the apostles in Jerusalem. (Act 4:36; 9:26-27)

Who Should be Blame Among Paul and Barnabas? says no one ought to be blame because Barnaba was seeking for a second chance for a naïve follower while Paul thought they need a more reliable person for their trips as it may involve more dangers. Also, the places they will touch would include those new places where he did not accompany them to.

Effect of Their Separation on the Gospel

The Gospel was not affected by their separation because no one person can appear in two or more places at once, even Jesus when he was alive where he couldn’t reach he sends his disciples there, to show that humans have limitations it is the Spirit of God that can be everywhere at once and since they cannot be everywhere at once, God ordained for the separation for the expansion of his work.

What Caused John Mark’s Change of Disposition

The change in his disposition to the itinerary movements could have come through her mother who was a staunch believer in Jerusalem, his cousin and Apostle Peter who calls him his son (1 Pet 5:13)

If apostle Paul has shared his mind with Barnaba that he did not like what he did, he would have used that to talk to his cousin, John Mark of what he said and over the time would have been building his relationship back with the apostle and he was seen that 12 years after he was with him as the apostle makes mention of that.

Aristarchus my fellowprisoner saluteth you, and Marcus, sister's son to Barnabas, (touching whom ye received commandments: if he come unto you, receive him;) (Col 4:10)

When Timothy traveled to go and see his spiritual farther, Apostle Paul in prison in Rome, the apostle gave him a specific instruction to ensure that he comes along with John Mark because of his practical use to him in the ministry.

Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry. (2 Ti 4:11)


How he Would be Useful to him now

Meyer’s commentary says where Mark was is unknown at this period, but it assumed that he was somewhere between Ephesus and Rome. Otto in his summation says Mark may have helped Paul through Timothy, but this is not founded. says though no specific church planting neither preaching nor healing was associated to the name of John Mark (at least in the Holy Bible) but his assistance may be due in one or all the followings:

(i) Practical Assistance

When he was with them, he would have been rendering some assistance which over the years they have discovered that no one could fill into the vacuum.

You know sometimes when some people leave us, or we become parted from some people we shall find it hard to find someone else to fill the vacuum, and sometimes we shall not even find people who would move close to the standard they have set, what they had done with us.

(ii) His Assistance Allowed for their Freedom

Because he was neither weighing them down nor adding burdens upon their burden, they were able to establish churches throughout Asia minor.

(iii) Ability to Write

Not many people could put words down graphically and historically that would be acceptable by all. Even today that there are many educated people here and there we still can discover that not many people could write, they can do some other things, but to pen things down, becomes difficult for them. But this wonderful man was gifted in this art, and thus he may have requested for him based on this too.

It is the believe of scholars that John Mark was the one who helped Apostle Peter write down his works and from the histories gathered from his mouth, and perhaps from others, inclusive his mother he was able to pen his own book Gospel according to saint Mark.

(iv) As Interpreter

He was said to have been Peter’s interpreter. Expositor’s Greek Testament says the word profitable for him is said to be in the line of him interpreting his Aramaic into Greek, so he may have helped St. Paul by a knowledge of Latin.

(v) Useful in other Areas

He could have been useful in other areas not stated in the bible too. As Ellicott in his commentary says for, he is profitable to me for the ministry according to Grotius, could mean he was profitable or serviceable as an associate who was well acquainted with the details of St. Paul’s many-sided work.

(vi) For Reconciliation

Barnes in his commentary says since the man was about to die, he may have invited him to settle everything between them in case the man was still thinking that he has put the past behind him. This may likely not be so for the words spoken does not point to that.

(vii) Does not Love the Present World

The preceding verse shows that Apostle Paul talks about someone, Demas as having departed him for the love of the present world, but he knows that Mark John did not do that when he left them for Jerusalem, he may have seen a different in someone loving the present world and someone leaving when he has something important to attend to at other places, though to him because of his zeal for the work he did not consider what Mark John wanted to go and do in Jerusalem important then, but now as he has gotten old, with more experience, he could see and understand better.

For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia. (2 Ti 4:10)

Sometimes some of us do like this we cast aspersions and look down on some people when they take certain steps as being un-christian and would consider them non-believers and may separate ourselves from them at that point, but with more experience and growth in the knowledge of God would understand better like Paul.

(viii) Support as Author

As writers sometimes those who are non-writers do not know what we are experiencing though they may be doing some other things for us, but some inputs necessary they may not be able to put it there for us. Not to talk about some people distracting authors when writing.

He sees that Mark would be of help while putting down some things as well as offering some logical words for him that he could include in what he was to write to the people. Because during this time he could accommodate visitors.

And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him,

Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him. (Act 28:30-31)


(ix) For Companionship

During this time he was allowed to receive visitors and since others have been bishops and leaders in other places with Mark John not being a renown leader in any of the known churches he may be requested for to be his companion as we would recall that the chief reason for God creating woman for the man in the garden was because he lacked companionship, no one could complement him as God said.

And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. (Gen 2:18)

Some of his Works

Not many things could be stated as what his works were in the bible from the extra biblical facts, we get the followings:

(a) An author: He wrote the Gospel according to saint Mark and Acts of Barnabas in the 5th century

(b) An interpreter: He was believed to be an interpreter for Apostle Peter

(c) Church Planter: He was believed to have planted churches in Alexandria in Egypt where he presumably died before his remains was being exhumed and taken to St. Mark in Venice in 9th century.

In conclusion, says assuming his story ended when he left them for Jerusalem it would have been bad, but thanks to Yahweh that the story of the man did not end like that obviously to help us know more about life and the Gospel as presented even during the apostles’ days. Though we may want to say that Mark John failed in his early ministerial attachment with Paul and Barnabas, but he makes it up afterwards and he becomes a lesson to all and sundry by this attitude, that a person who has not been instrumental to our developments, growth and advancements today could be tomorrow.



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