26 April 2010

2 Timothy 4:1-11

"Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful in my ministry." (v.11)


Mark had a varied career. In Acts Paul is critical of him because at Perga Mark had left Paul and Barnabas and returned home. So, when Barnabas wanted to take Mark with them on a later occasion, Paul objected and this caused a rift between the two men. Paul and Barnabas went their separate ways: Silas going with Paul and Barnabas taking Mark with him to Cyprus.

Against this background Paul's request to "get Mark and bring him with you" are words of great encouragement. First there is a generosity of forgiveness. In Acts 15:36-39 Paul is adamant he is not going to work with Mark and the rift between him and Barnabas must have extended when Paul writes to the Galatians and criticises Barnabas - "even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy" (Galatians 2:13), meaning that Barnabas followed Peter's example in withdrawing from the society of Gentile (non-Jewish) Christians in Antioch. Mark had been the original source of the dispute between Paul and Barnabas and Paul made his feelings clear. In today's passage though, Paul has obviously had the grace to change his mind and not only asks for Mark but also pays his ministry a compliment. Paul was willing to forget Mark's past mistakes and accept that he had changed. He was also able to forget his own anger and disappointment and had obviously re-established a good working relationship with Mark.

This verse is also reassuring because it speaks of new beginnings. Mark must have known that when he left Paul he had failed. Apart from being in receipt of Paul's anger he probably felt guilty, knew he had damaged his reputation and was having to live with his feelings of failure. The way Paul in 2 Timothy 4:11 compliments Mark suggests that Mark used his experience of failure to develop his ministry.

It is too easy when things go wrong to avoid someone who has offended us. Paul, in that command to "get Mark" suggests there is an alternative way of dealing with our failures and embarrassments and that is to face them and learn from them.

To Ponder

What can you learn from Paul's change in attitude towards Mark?

What can you learn from the changes which appear to have taken place in Mark?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Christine Jones

Christine Jones, an ordained Methodist minister, is currently director of the Urban Theology Unit in Sheffield, a centre which emphasises the importance of bringing theology and contemporary culture together. At UTU she is responsible for preordination training, teaching on the Foundation Degree, MA and supervising MPhil PhD students.