A MAN WHO MADE HIS MARK
by Timothy Cross
Did you know that one of the four Gospel accounts contains a reference to a streaker? Mark’s Gospel alone - in Mark 14:51,52 - tells us that when the Lord Jesus was arrested, a young man followed Him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body, and they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.
The common consensus is that this streaker was actually young John Mark himself, the writer of the Gospel. His recording of the incident does not really add anything essential to the story of Jesus, so we wonder why it is in the Bible at all? Perhaps it is just Mark’s way of saying ‘I was there’ - his signature of authenticity, if you like.
Mark’s streaking apart, under God, we are certainly in his debt for his Gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus. His Gospel is the shortest of the four Gospels - just sixteen chapters in all. He has a very ‘racy’ style. You could read his Gospel through in not much more than an hour. If you do, note how often he carries you forward with his characteristic words and immediately. Mark’s emphasis is more on what Jesus did than on what He said, and his particular perspective and angle is that the Lord Jesus is the Lord’s Servant. Jesus’ own words recorded in Mark 10:45 actually give us the key which unlocks the whole of Mark’s Gospel. In Mark 10:45 we read that ‘The Son of Man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.’ The first ten chapters of Mark show Jesus giving His life in service. Whilst the last six chapters of Mark show Jesus laying down His life in sacrifice - a sacrifice, in His own words ‘as a ransom for many’:-
There was no other good enough
To pay the price of sin
He only could unlock the gate
Of heaven and let us in.
Mark then was certainly a gifted young man. But this being said, he was only human. Mark had his home in the city of Jerusalem, and at one time, set out with the apostle Paul and Barnabas - who was actually Mark’s cousin - to accompany Paul on his first missionary journey. Mark thus witnessed the great apostle’s preaching and lifestyle at first hand. And he no doubt saw many lives transformed by God’s saving grace through the instrumentality of the apostle Paul. Yet Acts 13:13, ‘warts and all’ records how Mark deserted the missionary party, and left them and returned (home) to Jerusalem. Acts doesn’t explain why he did this. Perhaps he was homesick … Perhaps he could not keep up with Paul’s pace … We don’t know. The stress of the Bible though is that the best of men are mere men at best, and only the Lord Jesus Christ Himself is sinless and perfect, and worthy of our adoration, adulation, worship and praise.
A chapter or two later in Acts, we meet up with Mark once again. And here again, the humanity of God’s chosen instrument is all too evident. Paul was about to embark on another missionary journey with Barnabas, and Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark (Acts 15:37). But Luke then records how Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them … and had not gone with them to the work (Acts 15:38). He then goes on to say that there arose a sharp contention, so that they separated from each other; Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed … (Acts 15:39,40). Here than was a blazing row between Christian brothers. How embarrassing for them to have all this recorded in the Bible for posterity! Sadly, Christians do sometimes ‘fall out.’ But what was the outcome of it all? The outcome was that souls were saved, and the Church of the Lord Jesus was built. It all goes to show how the work of the Gospel is God’s work. The faults and foibles of men are no hindrance to omnipotence. Jesus said ‘I will build my church and the powers of death shall not prevail against it’ (Matthew 16:18). Thank God that nothing can hinder Him from fulfilling His eternal purposes of grace!
All’s well that ends well
Finally, we note concerning Mark, that all ended well. He was eventually reconciled to the great apostle. Yes, there was a rift between him and Paul, but they made it all up some years later. Some of Paul’s last recorded words - from a prison cell, not long before he was martyred - are contained in 2 Timothy 4:11. Here he writes: Get Mark and bring him with you; for he is very useful in serving me.
It just does not do for Christians to fall out. Hence Paul in Philippians 4:2: I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. The Gospel is the Gospel of reconciliation - that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them … (2 Corinthians 5:19). In the Christ of Calvary, God has dealt with the sin-barrier which separates us from Him. Through Christ, we are reconciled to our Maker Himself. When we have been reconciled to God through Christ though, it is highly inconsistent if there is then some disharmony between us and others who profess to know and love the same Saviour. We have the same heavenly Father. We are redeemed by the same precious blood. We are indwelt by the same Holy Spirit. We are heading for the same eternal Home … Of course, there will only be total harmony in the Age to come, yet this apart, Psalm 133:1 holds true when it says Behold, how good and pleasant it is, when brothers dwell in unity.
There then is something of Mark’s biography. He certainly make his mark on the world! His Gospel is part of the inspired Word of God. Mark was then a man who was most definitely used by God - and yet he was only a man. If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8). Marks’s motto would no doubt be the same as every Christian saved by grace: ‘Don’t look at me, look at my wonderful Saviour!’
Jesus! The Name high over all
In hell or earth or sky
Angels and men before it fall
And devils fear and fly
Jesus! The Name to sinners dear
The name to sinners given
It scatters all their guilty fear
It turns their hell to heaven
His only righteousness I show
His saving truth proclaim
Tis all my business here below
To cry ‘Behold the Lamb!’
Contact Timothy Cross at TJECross@aol.com