Monday, October 12, 2009

Paul Not With You

My family have a particular way of greeting me when I have gone down to visit on my own. It consists of looking over my shoulder as I walk through the door and saying, “Joe not with you?” There is more than a tinge of disappointment in the voice and the smile flickers just a little. Joe doesn’t believe it happens, but then, he has never been a witness to it happening. He wondered when I went over to Spain to visit Mike whether anyone there would look over my shoulder, as I walked through a door and ask, “¿Dónde está Joseppi?”

I rather think that when Barnabas arrived in Cyprus that there were more than a few people looking over his shoulder asking the question, “Paul not with you?” as their gaze fell upon the strange young man, John Mark.

There had been a strong disagreement between Barnabas and Paul, not about where to go, but who to take along with them. John Mark had let them down before and Paul wasn’t about to trust him a second time. Barnabas was not about to abandon John Mark, so Paul and Barnabas parted company.

As I was reading the account I wondered…

Would Paul have ended up in a prison in Philippi if Barnabas had been with him? I don’t know if Barnabas was Paul’s voice of reason, reigning in his passion and zeal which could be scary at times.

How did John Mark feel about being the cause of the split? I can’t imagine that there wasn’t a lot of side-taking over the whole issue. The congregation seemed to pray over Paul and Silas before they sent them off, but Barnabas and John Mark seemed to leave without anyone waving goodbye.

How did Silas feel filling Barnabas’ shoes? It’s like Alias Smith and Jones when Pete Duel steps out of the role to let the other guy take over. Are there always going to be awkward comparisons?

Did Paul remember the day when Barnabas turned up in Tarsus one morning inviting him to join him in Antioch? The disciples had written Paul off. They were not sure how ex-an-enemy of the church he was and whether he could be trusted, but Barnabas saw something in him to be nurtured and encouraged. Barnabas trusted Paul where others wouldn’t…now Paul was “the others” not trusting John Mark to come good in the end. He came good in the end, and when Paul was in prison, he specifically asked Timothy to send John Mark to serve him.

Would I want to be John Mark with Barnabas, or Silas with Paul? Let me be John Mark any day. I fear that I am a slow learner who needs gentle nurturing, not a wild adventurer that clings on to Paul’s white knuckle roller coaster ride.

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