I’m thankful that the Bible isn’t hagiography, an idealistic, even idolizing way of telling a story in which the heroes and heroines are scrubbed clean of mistakes and weaknesses. Just about any biblical character of note, except Jesus, has both good and bad moments in the scriptural story. Just read about Abraham and Sarah, Moses, King David, Elijah the prophet, Jesus’ apostles (the list goes on and on), and it doesn’t take long to discover episodes that are extremely unflattering. Remember how Peter, the church’s foundational rock, quickly becomes a stone of stumbling to Jesus (Matt 16:22-23)? The Bible doesn’t sugarcoat the saints. Why is this?
The Bible presents the saints “warts and all” to remind us that life and ministry isn’t ultimately about us and our accomplishments but about God and his faithfulness. As I mentioned in my last post on Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor 12:9), God places the treasure of the Gospel in common clay jars so there will be no mistaking that the source of our power is the gospel, and that all praise goes to Jesus alone (2 Cor 4:7).
John Mark, Second Chances, and Us
John Mark is a person whose life demonstrates this point. The Jerusalem Church met in his mother’s house (Acts 12). He went along to help Paul and Barnabas on their first mission trip (Acts 13). But this privileged and promising beginning was shattered when John Mark abruptly left the mission mid-trip, leading to heated controversy between Paul and Barnabas and the break-up of their mission team (Acts 15). What a mess! But thankfully there’s more to the story.
Dr. Don Denyes, senior pastor of South Church, Lansing MI, spoke about John Mark in his address at the 2019 Commencement at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. Don wove the scattered NT references to John Mark into the beautiful tapestry of biblical discipleship and taught about the grace and faithfulness of the God of the second chance, with whom failure is not final. I hope you will listen to this commencement address and be encouraged as you reflect on John Mark’s unvarnished discipleship journey and your own.
The Rest of the Story:
My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.) Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my co-workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me. (Colossians 4:10-11 NIV)
Worship the God of the Second Chance in Song:
Great is Thy Faithfulness (Chris Rice)
Psalm 34: Magnify the Lord with Me (Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir)
Your Love Never Fails (Jesus Culture)