“Aristarchus, who is a prisoner like me, sends greetings. So does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. You have received instructions about Mark. If he comes to you, welcome him” – Colossians 4:10 (God’s Word Translation)
I love this verse, but if I didn’t know who Mark was, I would probably have skimmed over it without a second thought. Ok; you’ve seen he’s the cousin of Barnabas, so let me tell you about them both. Barnabas means ‘Son of encouragement’, and that’s appropriate because he was the one to encourage Paul when Paul first became a Christian. Paul (or Saul, as he was then) had a famous conversion on the road to Damascus. He was on his way to find Christians and put them in prison. He even had letters approving their arrests, but he saw a light from heaven and fell to the ground, and Jesus told him: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:5). From then on, Saul put his all into showing people that Jesus is the Christ, but when he went back to Jerusalem, the Christians were suspicious. What they saw was a man in authority, who’d once arrested Christians, now claiming to be a believer. No one wanted to give him a chance, except for Barnabas, who persuaded others to meet with Saul and talk to him.
Barnabas and Paul remained close friends. When they went on their first mission trip, they took Mark (who’s sometimes known as John) along with them, but for whatever reason, that didn’t work out. Perhaps Mark was very young and the homesickness felt too much for him; perhaps he was afraid of opposition; I don’t know, but he went back home to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). Paul saw this as desertion and must have felt extremely let-down because when Barnabas suggested giving Mark another chance and taking him on a later trip, Paul wouldn’t hear of it. They disagreed so strongly that they decided to go their separate ways – Barnabas taking Mark, and Paul taking Silas (Acts 15:36-40).
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So now you know who Mark is, and perhaps you can see why I love the verse: “You have received instructions about Mark. If he comes to you, welcome him”. A couple of questions come to mind: Why would the Christians in Colossae not welcome him? How would they know about his past? They must have heard it from Paul. I’m not saying Paul should have kept his mouth shut. When you’re with family in the Lord – people you’re close to, you’ll talk about trips you’ve been on; things that happened; people who’ve disappointed you, but Paul telling them in this letter to welcome him takes humility. He’s admitting he was wrong about Mark. In fact, he writes somewhere else that Mark has helped him in his work (2 Timothy 4:11), so they made up. Isn’t it great to read happy endings?
One more question: Why did the Colossians need instructing to welcome him? Well, sadly, perhaps some wouldn’t have done so without being told. When somebody’s hurt a person we love and respect, it’s in our earthly natures to treat them with suspicion and distrust, not to welcome them with open arms, but God’s nature is very different.
Something to think about: Are you suspicious of someone? Do you need to ‘Welcome them’?