“Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem. ” (Acts 13:13)
Paphos was the capital city on the island of Cyprus. It was famous for the worship of Venus to whom a great temple had been built. Men have always built temples to their gods and goddesses, and the people on Paphos were not exception.
Leaving Paphos, Paul and his traveling companions continued on his First Missionary Journey and came to Perga, the capital of Pamphylia. Pamphylia was one of the coast regions in the South of Asia Minor. Here in Perga the worship of Artemis, or Diana, took place. Her temple stood on a hill outside the town.
What is notable about Perga is that John Mark, the nephew of Barnabas, was no longer with the group. John had departed to return to Jerusalem.
To say that John Mark returned to Jerusalem is to be charitable, for Paul saw his departure as a personal betrayal of the work he had agreed to engage in. Paul was very angry about John’s departure. He would not soon forget this desertion.
We can only speculate as to why John returned to Jerusalem.
Perhaps he was overwhelmed at the thought of crossing over the Taurus Mountains that lay before the group.
Perhaps he was terrified of the danger. Bandits were known to roam in the area.
Perhaps he took offense that Paul was taking over the lead of the team from his cousin Barnabas.
It is possible that John Mark stopped supporting the Gentile mission and preaching the gospel to non-Jews.
What is certain is that John Mark returned directly to Jerusalem, and Paul remained very angry over his actions.
Much later, when plans were being made for a Second Missionary Journey, Barnabas wanted to take John Mark along, but Paul absolutely refused. Heated words were exchanged. “And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other.” (Acts 15:38)
From this incident, the Church is reminded of two practical truths.
First, life can become overwhelming. No matter how sincere a person may be, no matter how well meaning, the circumstances of life can change a person, and move them in a direction they did not initially intend to go. For that reason you ought to say, “If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.” (James 4:15)
Second, people will disappoint you. People will disappoint you by what they say, or do not say. They will disappoint you by what they do, or fail to do. When people disappoint you, the Lord will look at how you respond to that disappointment. A variety of options are available, such as outrage, understanding, seething anger, resentment, and forgiveness. There are many ways to respond to people who disappoint you.
To help deal with disappointment in people two actions can be taken.
First, remember how often we each disappoint God, and how gracious and merciful He is toward us.
Second, turn your thoughts upon Jesus. Time and again His disciples were a great disappointment to Him. Yet, He loved them to the end. So, turn your eyes upon Jesus.
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.”
There was a happy ending to the disrupted fellowship between Paul and John Mark. They were reconciled. During his Roman imprisonment, sometime in AD 60-61, Paul speaks favorable of John Mark when writing to the church of Colosse. “Aristarchus my fellow prisoner saluteth you, and Marcus, sister’s son to Barnabas, (touching whom ye received commandments: if he come unto you, receive him;) (Col. 4:10)
Since the Lord has given to the Church the ministry of reconciliation, every effort should be made to be in fellowship with as many people as possible. Practically speaking, being reconciled to a person is not easy, and requires the following steps to be taken.
First, a commitment to the will of the Lord is necessary. It is the will of the Lord that Christians love one another. That does not happen when anger, resentment, and suspicion characterize a relationship. One of the nicest compliments I have ever read about Billy Graham is that he could out love his enemies better than anyone else.
Second, there must be a spirit of humility. When wrong, admit it. When right, be gracious. There is more to life than being right. Sometimes it is good to be humble enough to receive injustice, in order to move the relationship forward.
Third, there must be a willingness to forgive, and forget, and not remain historical. The Hebrew word for reconciliation is kapar (kaw-far). It is often translated in the English, atonement. Atonement conveys the idea of a covering. When Jesus died on the cross, He provided atonement, a covering for our sins with the Father, which is the basis for reconciliation. While no wrong doing is to be covered up, a transgression can be covered by grace.
Oh, may the Lord give us the ability to be reconciled to others when possible.