“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’?


Help Them Celebrate!

Have you ever read the book of Esther? I remember the first time I read it: I couldn’t put it down! Basically what happens is, the queen disobeys the king, so the king is advised never to allow her into his presence again, and to find another girl to be queen instead of her. A Jewess is eventually chosen – a girl called Esther. Actually, her real name is Hadassah, but she’s given the name Esther because she conceals her identity. Esther means Hidden in Hebrew, and if you read the book, you’ll see that God is hidden in the story: He’s not mentioned once, yet His fingerprints are all over.


Esther is in the king’s palace when his second-in-command, Haman, devises a plan to literally wipe every Jew off the face of the earth. He casts the lot (like tossing a coin) to determine when this will take place.


After several days of fasting, Esther goes in to the king without being called, endangering her life. She reveals her identity and requests that her people be saved. A law is written, permitting Jews to defend themselves on the day set aside for their destruction. When they had struck down their adversaries, they celebrated with feasting and called the feast Purim (meaning Lottery) – a reminder to them of Haman’s plot and how God brought relief from their enemies. Purim was a time for giving presents of food to one another and gifts to the poor (Esther 9:22).


Jews still celebrate Purim today (apparently this year, it’s on 8 March). In the last century, there have been many who’ve set themselves up against the Jewish people (Hitler would be one), but they can keep in mind this principle of thousands of years ago and look to God for relief.


If you want to help Jewish people celebrate, you can send Purim baskets to Israeli victims of terror attacks. You could even send a deluxe basket, which includes children’s toys as well as food.  You can read more about it here, and I hope you’ll share the joy of Jewish people around the world.