Inner Team Conflict: Acts 13:13
“Now Paul and his companions put out to sea from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia; but John left them and returned to Jerusalem.” Acts‬ ‭13‬:‭13‬
We now have mention that John Mark left Barnabas and Paul and returned to Jerusalem. This created a long standing rift between Paul and John Mark. (See Acts 15:36-41) It was so toxic that it eventually split the team of Barnabas and Paul as they formed two separate teams.
Historically, many pastors and scholars have been hard on John Mark and questioned his commitment level. But there are some facts about him that are often ignored.
First, he was not sent out by the church at Antioch, he was sent out by the church at Jerusalem. He was not mentioned by name by the Holy Spirit in Acts 13:2, only Barnabas and Saul were signified by name.
Second, Acts 13:13 states very specifically that John Mark returned to Jerusalem and not Antioch. He was on a different mission and reported to different headship. He was most likely sent to bring a report back to Jerusalem about what God was doing among the Gentiles. He was indeed fulfilling his mission.
Third, John Mark was one of the early disciples called by Jesus and most likely accompanied Him during His public ministry. He may have been the disciple described in Mark 14:51-52. He was like an investigative reporter. He was older than Paul in the faith and had more years of ministry experience, yet Paul belittled him.
Forth, early on in his ministry, Paul was very controlling and demanding. The split between Barnabas and Paul over John mark exposed a deeper flaw in Paul than in John Mark. Early on, Paul was very rigid and micromanaged people. He was a self appointed authority and John Mark danced to a different drummer.
Here is the truth; they had a mutual disrespect for each other. Interpersonal people problems often quenches the Spirit. This is not spiritual warfare… this is spiritual immaturity.
This whole story is filled with lessons on team health and leadership principles. Paul was so focused on his mission, he failed to value and affirm his team. It is interesting that the Son of Encouragement saw value in John Mark and choose him above Paul as his long term traveling and ministry companion. (See Acts 4:36 and Acts 15:39-40)
Years later Paul went through a change and specifically requested Mark to join him in ministry. (See 2 Timothy 4:11) I believe this is a sign that both men had grown considerably and matured.
Ministry will either make you or break you. Those who survive in ministry grow up, learn to forgive and change immensely over the course of time. If they calcify because of anger and bitterness… they become unusable.
Over the years, Paul took on some of the leadership traits of Barnabas and became an encourager himself. It was Paul that eventually penned Philippians 2:1-5 and 1 Corinthians 13:1-7. As the full story unfolds, it is a picture of the grace and love of God at work in the lives of both Paul and John Mark.
So what can we take away from this story? Be patient and allow God to finish his work in people before you judge their value. Also remember that God is not finished with you yet either. I have a tendency to see myself and others as works in progress. I confess, I gravitate toward Barnabas. I strive to add value to people. I don’t see them as throwaways.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global