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Mark

Act_15:37

The labors of Paul and Barnabas in Cyprus


seem to have terminated at Paphos. From
that place they embarked for the near coast
of Pamphylia, the province lying west of
Pauls native Cilicia. On reaching the coast the
vessel probably sailed up the river Cestius,
and landed its passengers at the city of
Perga, seven miles from the coast, to which
the river was then navigable. Of Perga little is
known, but there is a noted temple to Diana
upon an eminence, and the city celebrated a
great annual festival in honor of the goddess.
The site, which is very beautiful, is now
marked only by some Grecian ruins of walls
and towers, columns and cornices, a fine
theater and a stadium, a broken aqueduct,
and sundry scattered tombs. The sole
inhabitants are the shepherds who encamp
with their flocks among the ruins.
The apostolic party made, however, no stay
in this placeperhaps merely just long
enough to settle their route, unless this had
been previously divinely indicated. Paul had
already preached the Gospel in Cilicia, and in
the districts east thereof. It seems to have
been now his desire to make the glad tidings
known in the districts west and north-west of
Cilicia, as he knew there were in those parts
many settlements of Jews in important
Gentile cities. It was probably in consideration
of this matter that John Mark declined to go
any farther; at all events, it was at Perga that
he parted company from his uncle Barnabas
and from Paul, and hastened back to
Jerusalem. Whether he did this with the
consent or approbation of Barnabas is not
clear; but it is certain that Paul highly
disapproved of the step, and regarded it with
considerable displeasure. We may therefore
conclude that Mark was in the wrong, or at
least that he had no motive for the
separation, which Paul considered adequate.
It is quite possible that he entertained some
scruple at receiving idolatrous Gentiles into
the Christian Church, or was dismayed by the
dangers and difficulties of the attempt.
Perhaps the dangers of the way, in the
proposed inland journey, disheartened a
young man who had not before been from
home. The lawless and predatory character of
the tribes inhabiting the highlands separating
the plains of this coast from the interior table
land, was notorious in ancient times; and
there was no route Paul ever followed which
more than this abounded in those perils of
robbers, of whom he speaks in one of his
epistles (2Co_11:26). It may be, however,
that this step of Mark was taken from a desire
to rejoin Peter, whose convert he probably
was, and in whose company he appears to
have taken great delight; for he may have
heard or supposed that Peter had by this time
returned to Jerusalem, it being known that
Herod Agrippa was now dead. As good as any
of these suppositions is thisthat the young
man was home-sick, and longed sore after his
mothers house. It would seem that his
mother Mary was a widow, and probably had
early become such, so that Mark had been
reared up in his own nest, under his mothers
wing. Probably he was an only son, even her
only child. Now, we all know what kind of
character is usually formed under such
bringing-up. A mother-bred youth, especially
if the only child of that mother, and she a
widow, usually receives such a hot-house
culture, as badly fits him to endure the sharp
air and gusty winds of practical life. The
hardening of such a character is the most
distressing moral process to which life is
subject. Tender to touch as the mimosa;
morbidly sensitive to every influence from
without; even the kindness of men seems
rough, while neglected wounds and
unkindness kills. Apt to see offence where
love is meant; mortified to be no longer the
first object of thought and solicitude to all
around; such a young man cannot possibly
find any society in his first adventure from
home, in which his self-esteem will not be
deeply wounded. An earnest craving for home
arises, and that absence from it which a
hardier character sustains with comparative
ease, soon becomes intolerable.

We take this to have been very nearly the


case of Mark; and while in this frame of mind,
we can conceive that the society of his
earnest seniors, even though one of them
was his uncle, became distasteful to him. We
cannot well answer respecting Barnabas, but
of Paul we know that in the midst of his
generous tenderness of heart, he felt it his
duty to enforce upon those who were or were
to be ministers of the Gospel, the necessity to
endure hardness as good soldiers of Christ
Jesus, a doctrine which, as practically
enforced in daily life upon a young man in
this position, was likely to be at first
exceedingly unpalatable.

Notwithstanding this weakness, Mark


remained sound at the core; and when Paul
and Barnabas were about to set out upon
their second missionary journey from Antioch,
Mark was willing to accompany them. His
uncle was quite ready to take him; but Paul
had not the same confidence in his
steadiness, and mindful of the probably
serious inconvenience which his previous
desertion had occasioned, refused his
company. The result was a very painful
misunderstanding between him and
Barnabas, and the rupture of their plan of co-
operative labor. Barnabas chose to part with
Paul rather than with his nephew, and took
him with himself, leaving Paul to pursue his
own course with Silas.

It was probably from his steady and faithful


conduct during this journey with his uncle,
that Paul, who must have heard of it, restored
him to his good opinion, and admitted him to
his friendship. It appears that he was with
Paul during his first imprisonment at Rome,
Note: Col_4:10; Phm_1:24. and when the
Epistle to the Colossians was written, was
about to undertake a journey to Colosse for
him. He there speaks of Mark as a fellow-
worker unto the kingdom of God, and a
comfort to himself; and in his latest letter,
written not long before his death, he asks
Timothy to bring Mark to Rome with him,
being, as he says, profitable to me for the
ministry. Note: 2Ti_4:11.

Mark seems, however, to have more


generally labored in the society of Peter, who
calls him his son. Note: 1Pe_5:13. It is clear
that he was with Peter when this was written;
and the general ecclesiastical tradition is, that
he was the companion of his travels and
acted as his amanuensis. Indeed, it is
generally understood that the Gospel which
bears Marks name was written under Peters
superintendence, and may be essentially
regarded as Peters Gospel.

It is said that Mark was sent by Peter into


Egypt, to plant Christianity in those parts.
Here, having his main residence at
Alexandria, he labored with such diligence
and success that a flourishing Christian
church was ere long established; and the
evangelist then extended his labors into
Libya, and still further west, returning always
to Alexandria. Certain it is that the Christian
church in Egypt has always regarded St. Mark
as its founder.

It is stated by the ecclesiastical historians,


that Mark survived both Peter and Paul until
the eighth year of Neros reign, when the
populace, during the excitement of the feast
of Serapis, broke into the church during
divine worship, and binding Marks feet with
cords, dragged him through the streets, and
at night-fall thrust him, still alive, into prison.
During the night he was comforted and
sustained by a divine vision. But next
morning the mob drew him forth, and
dragged him about again, till the flesh being
torn off his bones, and all the blood in his
body spent, he rendered up his soul to God.
His remains were then burnt; but the
Christians gathered up the ashes and the
charred bones, and decently deposited them
at the spot where he used to preach.
Mark is, as to his person, described as of a
strong and healthful frame, in a body of
middle size and stature. His head was bald,
but his grey beard ample. His eyes were
noted for their gentle and amiable expression,
while his reverted eyebrows and lengthened
nose give him a somewhat peculiar aspect.
The further intimation that his gait was quick
and his movements sudden and rapid, agrees
well enough with the kind of temperament
which the description of his person indicates.