Once again today’s text brackets part of a longer story. The longer story – in Acts and the letters of Paul and Peter – gives us the truer, deeper meaning to the events in this text.
Paul and Barnabas, in the grace and power of the Holy Spirit, had collaborated closely for some time. They had taught Christians in Antioch, and they had planted the good news of Jesus in cities around the eastern Mediterranean. Eventually, however, they came to a disagreement. A cousin of Barnabas – John Mark – had accompanied them on that church-planting journey. Yet he left them before the journey was completed. Planning a second trip to those young churches, Paul and Barnabas differed on whether to include John Mark. Paul did not want to bring him. Barnabas did. Paul and Barnabas disagreed so strongly that they parted company. Paul took Silas on the second trip. Barnabas went with John Mark to Cyprus.
Such conflict does not seem to represent the grace and power of the Holy Spirit. Yet it was not the sum total of the story. It was not the end of the story as God was authoring it.
On this second journey Paul met Timothy. Timothy’s mother was a Jewish Christian; his father, Greek, and not a believer. Timothy was young – probably in his late teens – but gifted in faith. In the grace and power of the Spirit, and under Paul’s mentoring, Timothy became a true leader in the early church (1 Timothy 4:11-14).
John Mark eventually became close to Peter (1 Peter 5:13). He wrote a gospel (“of Mark”) in the New Testament. Paul later came to respect John Mark so much that Paul requested John Mark to be near him in his last, martyrdom-ending imprisonment (2 Timothy 4:11).
It is the very nature and purpose of God to bring good out of evil, to redeem people and situations from wrongdoing and conflict. This is the story of God’s salvation of a fallen and broken world. It is the story of God’s saving love in Jesus. It was Paul’s, Barnabas’s, Timothy’s, and John Mark’s story. God wants it to be yours and mine. Let us live in God’s story faithfully and fully – becoming, in the grace and power of the Spirit, the people God desires us to be.