A Scared Man, An Argument, And Barnabas

I read a funny verse a couple months ago.

I was reading in the gospel of Mark about when Jesus was betrayed and arrested. And these two verses caught my eye:

"A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind."
Mark 14:51-52

I believe every verse in the Bible is in there for a reason, even the ones that don't seem to fit - we just have to figure out the reason why. So I found myself wondering who that young man was, and why it was important for him to be mentioned there.

I told Derek about that verse and my puzzlement over it, and he whipped out his Life Application Study Bible and looked it up for me. Then he told me what his footnotes said, and the story started to make more sense.

In the footnotes, it noted that Christian tradition says that the young man in those verses was Mark, the author of the gospel of Mark. He is also known by the name of John Mark.

Well, that caught my attention, because I remembered that John Mark was who Paul and Barnabas argued about when they parted ways in Acts. I never fully understood why Paul didn't want John Mark to come with them on the missionary journey, and I never understood why Barnabas was so adamant about defending him. It always seemed like such a shame to have them separate over something like that.

So Derek did a bit more digging for me and this is what his Life Application Bible had to say about John Mark:

"Mistakes are effective teachers. Their consequences have a way of making lessons painfully clear. But those who learn from their mistakes are likely to develop wisdom. John Mark was a good learner who just needed some time and encouragement.

Mark was eager to do the right thing, but he had trouble staying with a task. In his Gospel, Mark mentions a young man (probably referring to himself) who fled in such fear during Jesus' arrest that he left his clothes behind. This tendency to run was to reappear later when Paul and Barnabas took him as their assistant on their first missionary journey. At their second stop Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem.

It was a decision Paul did not easily accept. In preparing for their second journey two years later, Barnabas again suggested Mark as a traveling companion, but Paul flatly refused. As a result, the team was divided. Barnabas took Mark with him, and Paul chose Silas. Barnabas was patient with Mark, and the young man repaid his investment. Paul and Mark were later reunited and the older apostle became a close friend of the young disciple . . .

. . . Barnabas played a key role in Mark's life. He stood beside the young man despite his failure, giving him patient encouragement. Mark challenges us to learn from our mistakes and appreciate the patience of others. Is there a Barnabas in your life you need to thank for his or her encouragement to you?"

I really loved reading that explanation, because it explained a little better the decision of both Paul and Barnabas to part ways, and it gave such a happy ending to the whole story.

Paul didn't want John mark to come because he had proved himself unreliable before (Acts 13:13). I always assumed Paul was right, Barnabas was wrong, and John Mark must not have been a very good guy. But after reading this commentary, I was able to see the story in a new light.

Paul had good reason to be hesitant about bringing John Mark - he had left them on their first journey (Acts 13:13). Barnabas saw Mark's potential - he wanted to be an encouragement to Mark by giving him another chance and helping him to grow, and that's why he was so insistent on bringing Mark. Mark wasn't a "bad guy", but just a young Christian who needed some encouragement and a second chance.

I liked reading about this, because it made me realize that neither of them was necessarily wrong in the argument - Paul had a good reason for not wanting Mark to come, and Barnabas had a good reason for wanting him to come. And a good thing came out of their decision to split - not only were they able to spread the gospel to two different parts of the world, instead of just one, but Mark was encouraged and grew through being allowed to go on the journey. Paul comments later on how Mark became helpful to him in his ministry (2 Timothy 4:11), even calling him "my son Mark" (1 Peter 5:13).

This wasn't the first time Barnabas encouraged someone. He was such an encouragement to the early church that they started to call him Barnabas, which means "Son of Encouragement" (his name was Joseph originally - Acts 4:36).

When Paul first became a Christian, the church in Jerusalem didn't believe that he was really a believer (Acts 9:26), which was understandable because of how he had persecuted them before. It was Barnabas who took him under his wing and introduced him to the apostles (Acts 9:27). Barnabas opened the doors for Paul to be accepted in the church at Jerusalem by being an encouragement to Paul and accepting him.

The quote that I shared above about John Mark asks if you have a Barnabas in your life that you need to thank for encouraging you, and I would encourage you to do that. But I have another question for you - can you think of someone in your life to whom you could be a Barnabas?

Barnabas is one of those quiet heroes. Those who encourage others aren't in the public eye - if you choose to step out of your comfort zone and encourage someone, you probably won't be recognized for it.

We'll never know what would have happened to Paul and John Mark if Barnabas wasn't there to encourage them. And you may never know the difference you make in someone's life just by being there to lift them up when they are down, by being their Barnabas.

At least you won't know on earth - but I think there must be great rewards in Heaven for those who choose to encourage others. I hope you step out in faith and choose to be an encouragement to someone today. It could make all the difference in the world.

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Brittney Galloway said...

Great post Callie! So well written!

Natalie said...

love this! Barnabas is amazing. At our church we have 'Barnabas groups' which are like small groups but for same gendered people and it's where you just get together to share your lives, pray for each other and encourage one another. Amazing, right?! Thanks for sharing the whole story with the blogging world!

Ash said...

We looked at this story in one of my New Testament classes, it happened to be one of my professor's favorites! He said he always imagines this fleeing naked man. Gotta love the humor of the Bible :)

Heather @ Simple Wives said...

Wow, I've never heard it explained that way. Thanks for sharing!

Tatiana said...

I never knew that the naked men was Mark! Such an interesting outlook on things :-) Thanks for sharing it

Melanie said...

This post is a real eye opener Callie! I never thought about that story that way but the way you broke it down it made alot of sense. We should try to be more encouraging to others (esp young Christians) and be as helpful as we can.

Ashley said...

That's awesome! I hadn't ever pieced together all of that history with Barnabas. Well studied!

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