Mark leaves Paul

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Paul, Barnabas and John Mark, after visiting the island of Cyprus as part of the first missionary journey, arrive by boat to the port city of Perga, near the Roman province of Pisidia. It is near this port city that Mark would, sadly and abruptly, abandon Paul and his relative Barnabas as they went inland to preach the gospel.

The chief associations of Perga are with the Greek rather than the Roman period, and its existing remains are described as being purely Greek, there being no trace of any later inhabitants. Its prosperity was probably arrested by the building of Attalia (Acts 14:25) after the death of Alexander, in a more favorable situation on the shore of the bay. Attalia has never ceased to be an important town since its foundation by Attalus Philadelphus.

It must have occasioned deep sorrow to Paul and Barnabas, and possibly even then some mutual estrangement, and afterwards it became the cause of their quarrel and separation (Acts 15:37 - 39). Mark "departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work." He came with them as far as Perga and then he forsook them. Mark took advantage of some vessel which was sailing towards Palestine and returned to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13) which had been his home in earlier years (Acts 12:12, 25).

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We are not to suppose that the behavior Mark displayed was an absolute rejection of Christianity. A soldier who has wavered in one battle may live to obtain a glorious victory. Mark was afterwards willing to accompany Barnabas again to Cyprus (Acts 15:39). Nor did Apostle Paul always retain his unfavorable judgment of him (Acts 15:38), but long afterwards, in his Roman imprisonment, commended him to the Colossians, as one who was "a fellow-worker unto the Kingdom of God," and a comfort to himself (Colossians 4:10).


Saints Mark and Paul
Saints Mark and Paul

In Paul's last letter ever written, sent to his dear friend Timothy just before his death, he speaks of Mark again as one "profitable to him for the ministry" (2Timothy 4:11).

Mark, many years after his abandonment of Paul, was also found in the company of Peter when the apostle sent his greeting from Babylon (1Peter 5:13). Peter was evangelizing the city just a few years before Paul was put to death in Rome. It is believed the gospel of Mark was heavily influenced by his friendship with Peter.

Yet if we consider all the circumstances of Mark's life, we shall not find it difficult to blame his conduct in Pamphylia, and to see good reasons why Paul should afterwards, at Syrian Antioch, distrust the steadiness of his character.

Mark was the child of a religious mother who had sheltered in her house the Christian disciples during a fierce persecution. He then joined himself to Barnabas and Paul when they traveled from Jerusalem to Antioch on their return from a mission of charity. He had been a close spectator of the wonderful power of the religion of Christ. Mark had seen the strength of faith under trial in his mother's home and he had attended his kinsman Barnabas in his labors of zeal and love.

Mark had seen the word of Paul sanctioned and fulfilled by miracles, and had even been the "minister" of the apostles in their successful enterprise (Acts 13:5). Now, however, he forsook them, when they were about to proceed through greater difficulties to more glorious success.

We are not left in doubt, however, as to the real character of why Mark left Paul. He was drawn from the work of God by the attraction of an earthly home. As he looked up from Perga to the Gentile mountains, his heart failed him, and he turned back with desire towards Jerusalem. He could not resolve to continue persevering in, "journeyings often, in perils of rivers, in perils of robbers . . ." (2Corinthians 11:26).

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