By tradition Mark is credited with writing the Gospel bearing his name, and is first considered to be mentioned in the New Testament as the young man, wearing nothing but his nightshirt, who followed Jesus from the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus had been arrested and was being taken to the house of Annas for questioning. Mark was held by the soldiers, but slipped out of his garment and escaped naked into the night. This tradition also holds that the house with the ‘Upper Room’, in which Jesus and His disciples ate their last supper together, belonged to Mark’s parents. He would therefore probably have followed the group from his home to Gethsemane in the first place.
We encounter him again in the Acts of the Apostles. Peter has been imprisoned and the believers have gathered to pray for him, presumably in the same Upper Room, in a house belonging to ‘Mary the mother of John, also called Mark’. We are not told if Mark was present. Peter surprised them by his arrival after being released miraculously from the prison. When Barnabas, Mark’s cousin, and Saul, soon to be known as Paul, left Jerusalem they took Mark with them to Antioch in Syria.
The church at Antioch responded to a word of the Holy Spirit and set aside Barnabas and Saul for mission. They left for Cyprus, taking John Mark with them as their helper. Mark stayed with them through Cyprus and into part of what we now call Turkey, seeing the power of the Holy Spirit at work to change people’s lives; but in their first port of call in Turkey, Mark left them to return to Antioch. Sometime later they prepared to set out on a second journey. Barnabas again wanted to take Mark, but Paul thought this unwise because of his desertion. The disagreement was so sharp that it broke up Paul and Barnabas’ partnership, Paul leaving for Turkey and Barnabas taking John Mark with him to Cyprus.
Some years later the rift was healed, and Mark was with Paul in Rome in about A.D. 60. Paul was in prison and Mark was helping to support him. During the time of Paul’s final imprisonment in Rome, in about 66, he wrote to Timothy to ask him to take Mark with him when he visited, ‘because he is helpful to me in my ministry’. The first letter of Peter also mentions ‘my son (or disciple) Mark’, leading to the belief that Mark drew on Peter’s memories when writing his Gospel. Mark is also credited as being the founder of the church in Egypt.
Almighty God, You chose out the evangelist Mark and poured out Your grace on him to preach the Gospel. May I receive inspiration from his teaching and so walk faithfully in the footsteps of Christ, my Lord. Keep me from giving up, but if I do fail, restore me and help me to carry on in the way You have chosen for me. Amen.