Super Bowl Champion Tim Johnson knew that for the sake of his team’s mission, when one man went down, the next man stepped up. The mission needed men, and men fueled the mission.
THE MISSING PERSON
One of the greatest high profile rifts in the New Testament is found in Acts chapter 15 when Apostles Paul and Barnabas parted ways after an intense disagreement over whether a young disciple named Mark should accompany them on a mission. Paul, ever the focused leader, was skeptical of his readiness because of a past bail-out, and wanted him left behind. Barnabas, ever the believing exhorter, wanted to take him along. Paul believed in the urgency of the mission while Barnabas believed in the development of the person. The breakup was ironic, given that Barnabas was the one who believed in Saul when very few did, and brought him onto the scene when everyone else was both skeptical and fearful. How could Paul forget so easily?
Before we judge, consider this: We never hear of Barnabas ever again, and Mark only towards the end of Paul’s life and ministry. They were essentially “missing persons” in the rest of the apostolic adventure. Here are the possible take-aways as we navigate the beautiful tension of the “both” and the “and”:
The Mission of the moment trumps the person out of season.
Who was right you ask? Both, as we shall see, but initially it was Paul. Mark was not ready for prime time, validated by the fact we never hear of him again until toward the end of Paul’s life and ministry in Rome. But we do hear of him, and it is Paul who asks for him: “Bring Mark,” he says, “because he is helpful to me in my ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:11). Confidence had been restored because Mark had ripened. He did not ask for Mark to be brought to him so he could say he was sorry but because he was now “helpful” to him. Tough but true: The man serves the mission; the mission does not serve the man.
The person out of season will eventually become the person in season.
Behind the scenes, we know that Mark grew past his rookie failures. I would speculate highly that he matured because Barnabas worked with him as he once did Paul. It’s just that we never hear about it. We can presume on that likelihood because John Mark was family – he was his cousin. I can just imagine Barnabas comforting young Mark’s soul and encouraging his heart, imparting the faith that would fuel his eventual greatness. Which serves as a reminder to us all: our greatest work in discipling future champions is mostly backstage and unseen.
The tension of necessary endings can give birth to the beauty of new beginnings.
This was not a case of either-or with one being right and the other being wrong. Both Paul and Barnabas were correct. Mark was not yet ready, but did have the “stuff” with which he would ultimately be worthy. It was a case of being a right person there at the wrong time. The lesson here is obvious: Don’t give up on those who disappoint you early on. See the God-placed deposit and disciple that potential into man-sized reality.
Mark would go on to write the second gospel of the New Testament, take the gospel to Egypt, and die a courageous martyr’s death, much like the one who rejected him many years prior. There is a saying: “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Neither should we judge one’s story by how it starts.