“We Work for … Christ-Centered Reconciliation”

Colossians 4:7-18


            When people hurt us … we can do what Miss Havisham did. For those who don’t know her, she is a lady in Charles Dickens’ novel Great Expectations. Deserted by her fiancé just prior to her wedding, how did she respond? Well, she closed all the blinds in the house, she stopped every clock, left the wedding cake on the table and let it gather cobwebs, and she continued to wear her wedding dress until it hung in yellow decay around her dying body. Humiliated and heartbroken, she from that day on, remained alone in her mansion. Her broken heart consumed the rest of her life.

            Now, is there a better way to handle life’s hurt than this? Of course there is. And this is God’s gift to us in our reading from the end of Colossians 4. Paul had been hurt. He had been hurt deeply by a man named John Mark. Hurt so deeply that they eventually departed ways. End of the story for them? Nope. Paul worked for Christ-centered reconciliation. Did it work? I’ll let you be the judge. Paul says, “My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him” (Colossians 4:10). This morning, we’re going to look at how Paul reconciled with John Mark and what this means for us in our lives today.

            First, we need set the scene, we need to understand the backstory.

            The John Mark that we’re talking about, you know him. This is the same Mark who wrote the Gospel of Mark. Mark had an awesome Christian family. His mother’s name was Mary and in Acts 12, we’re told that her home was used as a meeting place for early Christians. Mark also had a cousin named Barnabas. Acts 4 tells us that Barnabas was a respected and trusted leader within the early church. Barnabas’ generosity led him to sell land to help finance the church’s mission.

            Acts 13 tell us that when the church in Antioch sent Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey, they invited Mark to join them. Now, if you look this up, you won’t find Mark’s name listed. In the book of Acts, Mark is called John Mark or sometimes just John. Acts 13:5 says, “John was with them as their helper.” When this trio of Paul, Barnabas, and Mark sailed to the Island of Cyprus, Mark saw the power of God at work in the governor’s house. He saw this leader embrace the claims of Christ. That’s the framework, the scene of this story about Christ-centered reconciliation. Paul, Barnabas, and Mark, on a mission for Jesus. And don’t forget, Mark and Barnabas are … cousins.

            “From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem” (Acts 13:13). On this next leg of the journey, Mark, or as he is called here, John, left and went back home to Jerusalem. But why? Did Mark get homesick? Was he tired of helping Paul and Barnabas? Was he afraid of the next part of the journey, which would be a long hike through some rough and dangerous mountains? What caused the falling out?

            The most likely explanation is that there was a change in leadership within the mission team. The mission began with Barnabas as the leader. In numerous places in Acts 13(:1, 2, 7), Luke writes, “Barnabas and Saul{or Paul}.” Clearly, Barnabas was the leader on the first missionary trip, because Luke, the author, mentions Barnabas first three different times. Notice though that Acts 13:13 states, “Paul and his companions.” Paul is now in charge. Barnabas isn’t even mentioned here! It’s likely that Mark didn’t agree with this change in leadership. He didn’t like how his cousin, Barnabas, was no longer in charge.

            Mark probably didn’t like Paul’s leadership style. No doubt it was totally different from that of Barnabas. Acts 4:36 tells us that Barnabas means, “Son of Encouragement.” But Paul, Paul, the former Pharisee who was use to giving directions, demanded more and expected more. So Mark quit. But there’s more to the story.

            In Acts 15 we read, “Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.’ Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company” (15:36-39).

            Who is it that have you had a falling out with? Your parents? Your spouse? Your boss? Your friend? Someone within church?

            When we hurt, the temptation is to follow Miss Havisham. Remember, she’s the lady from Charles Dickens’ novel Great Expectations? Maybe we don’t close the blinds, but we close off our hearts. Maybe we don’t stop every clock, but we nurse the hurt so it still feels like it all just happened … yesterday. Maybe we aren’t sitting around with a rotten wedding cake in old clothes, but we know, we know exactly what it feels like to be humiliated and heartbroken. And so we think to ourselves, “This hurt will never go away, it will consume me for the rest of my life.” End of story? Nope!

            Paul was hurt. He was deeply hurt. He was ready to write Mark off entirely. But here’s the thing … Paul knew his Old Testament. You see, Joseph didn’t write off his brothers, even though they beat him, threw him into a hole, and then sold him into slavery. Instead, Joseph welcome them into his place.

            David didn’t write off King Saul. Saul had a vendetta against David. He wanted David dead. Even with this death warrant over his head, David still called Saul, “The LORD’s anointed.” Hosea didn’t write off Gomer. She was the queen of the red-light district. Hosea kept the front door unlocked.

            Why do people do that? Why not nurse the hurt? Why not be bitter and vindictive?

            Forgiveness. Paul worked for forgiveness. Paul wrote earlier in Colossians 3, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (3:13).

            This is why Paul also writes, “My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him” (Colossians 4:10).

            It’s been seventeen years since Mark left Paul in Perga. And look what Paul says about Mark. He instructs the Colossians to welcome Mark if he visits them. Now, Colossae is not all that far away from Perga, where Mark left Paul and Barnabas. Did the Colossians know what happened? Did Mark have a black mark on his record among some Christians? The fact that Paul makes these explicit commands seems to suggest as much. Paul did everything possible for John Mark.

            That’s because Jesus did everything possible for all people, for you. He suffered, He bled, He died. He died the most cruel death possible when He died on the cross. Why? Why would He do this … Because Jesus would rather lose everything than lose you. Jesus would rather lose everything than lose me.

            What about you? Aren’t you tired of living with closed blinds in your house? And the stopped clocks? And the stale cake and dirty, rotting clothes? Aren’t you tired of the pain that consumes your life? Does it need to be the last chapter? Does it need to be the end of the story? Nope!

            And how can I be so sure? Well, you know the answer … Jesus. Jesus is why Paul says, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you” Amen.

            The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now and forever. Amen.


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