Lessons Repeated

Is it not often so, that we only learn in part
And the Master's testing time may show
That it was not quite “by heart?”
Then He gives, in His wise and patient grace,
That lesson again with the mark still set
in the self-same place.
(Frances Ridley Havergal)

In the six short passages that John Mark is mentioned in the Bible we can follow the life of a young man who for some reason failed the test set before him but learned from his mistake and when the Master tested him again concerning whatever was his problem he showed that he had learned his lesson, and evidently, learned it well! I believe it is recorded for all of us as an encouragement.


His first mention is in Acts 12:12. Peter had supernaturally been released from prison and immediately went to the house of Mary, John Mark's mother, where people were gathered praying for him. That tells us that his mother was a Christian. The second time we read in Acts 12:25 that John Mark had been taken by Paul and Barnabus on their missionary journey. Then in Acts 13:13 it simply says that John Mark departed from them and returned to Jerusalem. It could have been because the rigors of the trip were too much for him, or it could have been Paul's “type A” personality; but whatever the reason, after Paul and Barnabus finished their journey and eventually returned to Jerusalem to meet with the church leaders to resolve some issues and had decided their next trip would be to visit the churches to strengthen them in the faith, Barnabus was determined to take John Mark with them. (Acts 15:37) Paul was just as emphatic that they wouldn't! (Acts 15:38) They actually parted company and Barnabus took his cousin John Mark and headed to Cyprus. Paul chose Silas and headed to Syria and Cilicia.

Fast forward a few years and we find Paul writing to the Colossians from prison in Rome, and John Mark is there with Paul helping him. He mentions him again in Philemon. A few years later after being released Paul is now in prison again awaiting execution and he writes to Timothy: “Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:11)

John Mark had a close relationship with the Apostle Peter. In 1 Peter 5:13 Peter calls him his “son.” Whether he meant as his spiritual son in the faith or just the tight bond they enjoyed is not certain, but church fathers refer to Mark as “Peter's interpreter” and believe that after Peter's death Mark wrote the Gospel of Mark led by the Holy Spirit to record the events of Jesus' life as Peter had told them to him.

In writing this I was blessed and encouraged by this young man's life. It could not have been easy to live with the Apostle Paul considering him unfit for any ministry. In reading between the lines I think I see a servant or helper attitude in Mark, someone used of God to help men like Peter and Paul.

I need to end by saying that there is a lesson here for all of us who read about John Mark. Think of what his life would have been if his fears, or whatever it was, kept him running away from the lesson God wanted him to learn! Many times God has tried to teach me a certain lesson and been patient with me until I got it, but I also know from experience that when necessary God disciplines us as a father does a disobedient son. He wants His children to grow up, and the danger is when we refuse to learn the lesson time after time that He will take His hand away and let us remain disobedient children, never growing up and being useful to God in ministry but letting our disobedience runs its course in an unhappy and unfulfilled life.