Daily D – Acts 13:13
Paul and his companions then left Paphos by ship for Pamphylia, landing at the port town of Perga. There John Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem. ACTS 13:13 (NLT)
Let’s say when the going got tough, a not-so-tough Roman soldier decided that day was not the day he planned to lay his life on the line for his country. Let’s say he laid aside his sword, shield, and spear and walked, nay ran, from the front lines of battle. What would happen to him?
Since Roman legions depended on every soldier holding his shield in the phalanx so that the soldier on his left was protected, desertion in battle provided an opening the enemy could exploit. Punishment was swift and certain. At least one commander had deserters scourged and then beheaded. He wanted them to suffer to the point they welcomed death.
In Act 15:38, Luke records how Paul saw Mark as a deserter. It was such an issue for the two old friends, Paul and Barnabas, they went their separate ways (15:36-41).
Notice the shift taking place in 13:13. “Paul and his companions left Paphos by ship for Pamphylia.” Barnabas had been the de facto leader of the expedition to this point. Now, Paul stepped up and led the way. Barnabas was the man who searched for Paul to have him serve alongside him in Antioch (11:25ff.). Barnabas had a reputation for encouragement which is what his nickname indicated (4:36).
Part of the leadership issue here may relate to where they were and where they were headed. They were leaving Cyprus, Barnabas’ home turf. They were headed to Pamphylia and beyond, Paul’s home turf. When we read Paul’s later letters, he talks about this particular time by reminding his readers how sick he was. He had to get off the coast and into the higher elevations to get away from the cause of his illness. Paul and Barnabas were headed a dozen miles inland into an area well known for hazardous travel due to bandits. Paul even wrote in one of his letters about being in danger on the road. This journey may well have been what he had in mind.
Whether it was the shift in leadership, Paul’s sickness, the dangerous climb ahead, or plain old homesickness, Barnabas’s younger cousin John Mark turned tail and headed for home. It’s a good thing for Johnny Boy that Paul was not a centurion and he was not a soldier. It’s a good thing Barnabas later let John Mark try, try again. It’s a good thing Paul’s heart changed toward John Mark as well. In Col. 4:10 and 2 Tim. 4:11, Paul writes about him. In one of his final written words he says, “Only Luke is with me. Bring Mark with you when you come, for he will be helpful to me in my ministry.”
One gracious encourager invested himself deeply in growing disciples who wrote fourteen New Testament books. Encouragement is an accelerant to maximum expression. Whose fire will you breathe to life today?
Who are you tempted to give up on? Who gave up on you? Who have you reconciled with regarding similar circumstances? Who do you need to reconcile with now? Who needs your words of courage, strength, hope, and truth? We get to join God in turning deserters into disciplemakers, runaways into writers.
I will follow Barnabas’s lead.
Our Father, empower me to encourage someone today. Give me words of hope and strength that accelerate your purpose in someone’s heart. Bless me with a disposition of edification. Amen.
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Ruth 1:20, 21 “Don’t call me Naomi. Call me Mara,” she answered, “for the Almighty has made me very bitter. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has opposed me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?” (CSB)