Barnabas - Son of encouragement

SERMON TOPIC: Barnabas - Son of encouragement

Speaker: Gavin Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 18 May 2014


Sermon synopsis: A look at the ministry of encouragement and mentoring as exemplified in the life of Barnabas.

Ever heard of Albert McMakin? Ever heard of Edward Kimball? Ever heard of Robert Moffat? Ever heard of Barnabas?

We serve a God of comfort and encouragement, who expects us to do the same to others:

2 Cor 1:3-5 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.
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How many people today have heard of Albert McMakin? Probably not too many.

McMakin was a 24-year-old farmer who was converted at one of evangelist Mordecai Ham’s meetings in 1934. Thereafter, every night he filled his beat-up old vegetable truck full of blacks and whites to go to Ham’s meetings.

There was a good looking farmer’s son whom he was especially keen to get to a meeting, but this young man was hard to persuade - he was busy falling in and out of love with different girls, and did not seem to be attracted to Christianity. Eventually, Albert McMakin managed to persuade him to come by asking him to drive the truck. 1

1 SOURCE: Questions of Life, Nicky Gumble, p195-196


When they arrived, Albert’s guest decided to go in and was ‘spellbound’ and began to have thoughts he had never known before. He went back again and again until one night he went forward and gave his life to Jesus Christ. 1

That young 16-year-old boy was Billy Graham, who became one of the most recognisable names in our world today and was a spiritual adviser to several US Presidents. Since then 3.2 million people have responded to the invitation at Billy Graham’s crusades to follow Jesus.

As of 2008, Graham’s estimated lifetime audience, including radio and television broadcasts, topped 2.2 billion. 2

1 Ibid 2 "http:// wiki/ Billy_Graham">http:// wiki/ Billy_Graham


Graham grew one of the largest ministries ever, while avoiding the scandals of other famous televangelists.

Though most today do not remember Albert McMakin – the impact of Billy Graham, who was invited by him to that meeting in 1934, is still felt today. We might not all be like Billy Graham, but we can all be like Albert McMakin - we can simply bring our friends to Jesus.


How many of you have heard of Edward Kimball? Again probably not too many.

Kimball was concerned about a 17- year old Sunday School student of his, who worked at a shoe shop in town. This poorly educated boy attended church because of a promise he’d made to his uncle in return in return for giving him a job in the shop. But he frequently fell asleep in church because all the sermons sounded alike to him. Kimball was not content just to give Sunday School lessons – he took a personal interest in his boys, and would make an effort to visit them during the week.


Years later when that boy was a man he recalled, “… one day I recollect a Sunday-school teacher came round behind the counter of the shop I used to work in, and put his hand on my shoulder, and talked to me about Christ and my soul. I had not felt I had a soul till then. I said: ‘This is a very strange thing. Here is a man who never saw me until within a few days, and he is weeping over my sins, and I never shed a tear about them.’ But I understand it now, and know what it is to have a passion for men’s souls and weep over their sins. I don’t remember what he said, but I can feel the power of that young man’s hand on my shoulder tonight. Young Christian men, go and lay your hand on your comrade’s shoulder, and point him to Jesus tonight.” 1

1 Source: “Life and Work of Dwight L. Moody: The Great Evangelist of the 19th Century” by Rev. A. W. William


The 17-year-old boy’s name was D. L. Moody. His name is still well known today, more than 110 years later.

Kimball recalled the incident in the shop as follows, “When I was nearly there, I began to wonder whether I ought to go just then, during business hours. And I thought maybe my mission might embarrass the boy, that when I went away the other clerks might ask who I was, and when they learned might taunt Moody and ask if I was trying to make a good boy out of him. While I was pondering over it all, I passed the store without noticing it. Then when I found I had gone by the door, I determined to make a dash for it and have it over at once.” 1

1 The life & work of Dwight Lyman Moody By J. Wilbur Chapman

(2) D.L. MOODY

“I found Moody in the back part of the store wrapping up shoes in paper and putting them on shelves. I went up to him and put my hand on his shoulder, and as I leaned over I placed my foot upon a shoe box. Then I made my plea, and I feel that it was really a very weak one. I don’t know just what words I used, nor could Mr. Moody tell. I simply told him of Christ’s love for him and the love Christ wanted in return. That was all there was of it. I think Mr. Moody said afterward that there were tears in my eyes. It seemed that the young man was just ready for the light that then broke upon him, for there at once in the back of that shoe store in Boston the future great evangelist gave himself and his life to Christ.” 1

1 Ibid

(2) D.L. MOODY

D. L. Moody went on to become one of the greatest evangelists ever, sharing the gospel with 100 million people. And this was in the age before modern mass media like TV, radio and the internet. He also founded the Moody Bible Institute and the Moody Memorial Church in Chicago.

And ironically years later Moody would lay his hand on the shoulder of Kimball’s own son and point him to Christ.

(2) D.L. MOODY

How many of you have heard of Robert Moffat?

In 1807 when he was only 12, he was at church in Scotland. After the offering, the boy stepped into the offering plate. When asked what he was doing, he replied, “I’m giving my whole self to Jesus!”

At 20 years old, he become a missionary to Africa. For more than 50 years Moffat and his wife took Jesus to the Tswana people and the bushmen.


20 years later, in 1835, Robert Moffat was back in Scotland. He was looking for people to come and assist in what was then called “the dark continent”. As he spoke he told them, “Many a morning have I stood on the porch of my house, and looking northward, have seen the smoke arise from villages that have never heard of Jesus Christ. I have seen, at different times, the smoke of a thousand villages—villages whose people are without Christ, without God, and without hope in the world ... The smoke of a thousand villages ...”

In the audience that day was a young Scot who was studying to be a doctor and had decided to give his life to the service of God, but where and how he was not sure. He listened to Moffat’s story, and never forgot those words - “the smoke of a thousand villages.”


The young man was David Livingstone, who became the famous missionary to Africa, a renowned explorer, and fierce opponent of the slave trade.

He left the comfortable missionary stations and lived with the African people, learning their language, treating their sick, and helping them build a better life for themselves as he told them about Jesus. Incidentally he also later married Moffat’s daughter.


During the course of history there have been some extremely significant events, that may never have come about were it not for the actions of some seemingly obscure person.

In the New Testament we have a similar scenario to the three examples just cited, with the famous apostle Paul - and the more obscure apostle Barnabas. In spite of his relative obscurity, the indirect impact and influence of Barnabas has turned out to be immense.

We first read of Barnabas in the book of Acts with events surrounding the early first church in Jerusalem.


Acts 4:34-36 There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned

lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.

Acts 4:37 … Barnabas … sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.

Barnabas is generous - he gives all the proceeds from the sale of his land to the church. He doesn’t do this in response to a specific need and there does not seem to be any appeal from the apostles for assistance, as we find in other cases. It is an unsolicited and spontaneous gift, given with no strings attached.

Barnabas had truly given all, without any hidden agenda, and seems to receive instant recognition in the church. Contrast this with Ananias and Sapphira who immediately afterwards give money from the proceeds of a property sale, but they connive and deceitfully pretend to have given all, when they have only given a portion.


It was their prerogative to give only a portion (Acts 5:4), but the timing seems to indicate that they were wanting to get similar recognition to that which Barnabas had received.

Barnabas was not only generous; he had a ministry of encouragement – hence the nickname given to him by the apostles, meaning “Son of Encouragement”.

Acts 4:36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement)…

In the NT Greek, the word ‘encouragement’ (paraklesis) is closely related to the word used for the Holy Spirit (parakletos). Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the ‘parakletos’ which means the counsellor, comforter, helper or advocate. One of the ministries of the Holy Spirit is to encourage us and give us hope in times of trouble.

Rom 15:13 … so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.


We serve a God of comfort and encouragement, who expects us to do the same to others:

2 Cor 1:3-5 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

Let’s look at the book of Acts and further see how Barnabas is instrumental in encouraging the apostle Paul in his earlier years and in assisting in the development of his ministry.


Saul of Tarsus (later called Paul) had gone to Damascus with the intention of arresting Christians there.

On the road there he encounters Jesus and is converted.

But after preaching in Damascus, this converted former persecutor of Christians made some enemies there.

Acts 9:23-24 After many days had gone by, the Jews conspired to kill him, but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him.

9:25 But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.

9:26 When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple.

Barnabas encourages Paul when he needs it most.

After Paul’s conversion, he was experiencing difficulty when trying to join the disciples in Jerusalem. This is not surprising as many suspected him of being a spy. He had approved and was present at the execution of the first martyr Stephen, and had left Jerusalem as a persecutor of Christians, with the intention of persecuting believers living in Damascus. Many Christians may have had friends or relatives who had suffered at the hands of Paul.

Undoubtedly most of Paul’s former Pharisee friends would have shunned him by now, but even the believers are avoiding him, not convinced that he was a true convert.


Enter Barnabas, the “Son of Encouragement”.

9:27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.

9:28 So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord.

Barnabas appears to act as an impartial mediator between Paul and the Jerusalem church.

Not only does he consider Paul to be a genuine convert, he states Paul’s case to the apostles. Barnabas was held in high regard by the Jerusalem church, so his endorsement of the man was the major factor in Paul being accepted by both the apostles and the church. Barnabas has taken the time to hear Paul out and doesn’t just criticise at a distance. There are sometimes people or groups of believers who may, for whatever reason, run against the grain of mainstream Christian thought. But rather than simply ostracizing them like most may do, Barnabas seems to deliberately encounter them, hear them out and then befriend them if he is satisfied with what he sees.


Barnabas displays courage, as he risks his life when he reaches out to Paul.

What if Paul really was a spy as others suspected? It was a risk Barnabas was prepared to take.

Barnabas had observed Paul, tested what he’d heard and seen, and made a judgement based on the fruit he’d observed in Paul’s life and words.

Barnabas also risks his reputation.

He is held in high regard in the Jerusalem church and with the apostles. What if they shunned him because he was not only hanging around with, but was actively promoting a dubious character?


The church in Antioch in Syria was planted by ‘refugee’ believers fleeing the persecution in Jerusalem which had been triggered by Stephen’s death (Acts 11:19)

Barnabas was then sent by the Jerusalem church, probably both to investigate and to assist at Antioch.

Acts 11:22 News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.

Barnabas sees what is happening among the Gentile believers in Antioch and affirms the authenticity of their conversion.

Acts 11:23 When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God

We have already seen his impartiality in the way he handles Paul earlier. Luke says of Barnabas, “He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith” (Acts 11:24). And typical of a man of good character, Barnabas impartially looks at the facts: these people in Antioch – many of them uncircumcised Gentiles – are really true converts. He takes this as evidence of the grace of God.


The first thing the “Son of Encouragement” does is to start encouraging these new Gentile believers.

Acts 11:23 … he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.

But the demands of this fast growing church are too much for one person, so he decides to recruit Paul to assist him:

11:25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch.

Barnabas not only continually encourages Paul, he sees potential in him and gives him an opportunity to perform ministry.

Barnabas shares his ‘pulpit’ with the younger man and the resultant outcome is positive:

The church in Antioch grows even more rapidly.

Acts 11:26 … So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

Needless to say this opportunity also provided invaluable experience for Paul.


Barnabas knew how to get other people involved. One of the characteristics of a good leader is the ability to delegate.

Don’t do the work of ten men.

Rather put ten men to work.

At no time does he appear to be envious of the success of the others he had initially involved. He focuses rather on using the gift that God had given him – that of encouraging and mentoring others.

Rom 12:6-8 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us… if it is encouraging, let him encourage


Barnabas’ action in recognizing his own limitations, shows his humility. His main concern is the needs of God’s people. He was fully aware of Paul’s powerful ministry as it was he himself who made the apostles aware of this.

Acts 9:27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul … in Damascus … had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.

He was aware of Paul’s knowledge and oratory skills when he had debated boldly with Grecian Jews in Jerusalem (Acts 9:28-29). He must have realised that Paul might overshadow his own qualities. But there is no indication of jealousy on Barnabas’s part. His main concern is the furtherance of the gospel, and not protecting his own ministry platform.


Acts 11:27-28 During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world…

When the Judean church is battling because of the famine, Barnabas and Paul alleviate their suffering and encourage them by taking a practical gift from the Antioch church.

Acts 11:29-30 The disciples… decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.

At this stage Barnabas is always mentioned first when speaking of him and Paul (Acts 11:30; 12:25; 13:2,7). When the leaders at Antioch are first mentioned, Barnabas is listed first and Saul (aka Paul) last.

Acts 13:1 In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen … and Saul.

When the church at Antioch send the first mission group (Barnabas, Paul and John Mark) out, it is clearly Barnabas who initially leads the party.

Acts 13:2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

They go at first to Cyprus, which is the home country of Barnabas and are summoned to the proconsul:

Act 13:7 … Sergius Paulus… an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God.


But at this point Paul takes the lead as the spokesperson who opposes Elymas the sorcerer.

Acts 13:8-12 But Elymas … opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith. Then … Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas…

Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind, and for a time you will be unable to see the light of the sun.

Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand.

When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord.

From now on Paul seems to be accepted as the leader, with the group being termed “Paul and his companions” (13:13). 1

Subsequently Paul is almost always mentioned first when referring to him and Barnabas (Acts 13:42,43,46, 50, 14:1,3,14,19,20,23, 15:2,22,25,35)

At Lystra Paul is referred to as “the chief speaker”.

1 The exceptions are (15:12 & 15:25) when the two apostles go to Jerusalem, where Barnabas is initially still mentioned first. But afterwards this again changes back to “Paul and Barnabas” (15:22).


Acts 14:12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker.

And when the apostles protest at being revered as pagan gods, it is Paul they decide to stone (14:19).

Paul is undoubtedly the most influential of the 1st century apostles. He became the apostle to the Gentiles and besides preaching in Asia Minor, took the gospel to Europe (preaching in Greece, Italy, Cyprus, Malta and possibly Spain). Approximately half of the book of Acts deals with the life and ministry of Paul. His profound Epistles that constitute half of the NT (14 of the 27 books in the NT have traditionally been attributed to him) still impact the world today.

But it was Barnabas who initially encouraged Paul, when no-one else would accept him, and Barnabas who offered him his first ministry position in Antioch which ultimately led to his mission trips to Asia Minor and Europe. It was the support and encouragement of Barnabas that was instrumental in establishing Paul in his ministry.


Barnabas is one of the best examples of supporting ministry. He didn’t need to be in the spotlight - he was content to work behind the scenes.

We don’t have a single recorded word of Barnabas. He was satisfied to work in the shadow of Paul and to allow him to be the spokesperson.

Yet his impact was immense through his influence and encouragement of both Paul and John Mark in their early ministry years.


Most people who have been greatly used of God have, at some point, received guidance, wisdom, and mentoring from another more mature person. There has been someone who was prepared to invested time and effort into the life another because of the potential they see in that individual.

Throughout Scripture we have examples of men who started out by being a supporting ministry, as God prepared them for ministries of their own.


Joshua was Moses’ servant before becoming Israel's leader

Ex 24:13 So Moses arose with Joshua his servant, and Moses went up to the mountain of God. (NASB)

Elisha was Elijah’s servant before becoming God’s prophet:

1 Kings 19:21 So Elisha … set out to follow Elijah and became his servant.

At first Timothy was Paul’s understudy and assistant:

Phil 2:22 But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel.

It is Paul who takes the initiative with the second missionary journey:

Acts 15:36 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.”

But after a disagreement between the two, Paul takes Silas as his companion while Barnabas goes separately with Mark. After this the Scripture is silent about Barnabas, while the focus of Acts shifts to Paul.


The disagreement centred around John Mark. Just who was John Mark?

John (Yochanan) was his Hebrew name, while Mark (Marcus) was his Latin (i.e. Roman) name.

Many believe that the young man whom Mark alone mentions in his gospel, who escaped from the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus was arrested (Mark 14:51-52) was John Mark himself.

John Mark was the son of a Christian woman called Mary who lived in Jerusalem.


It was to their house that Peter came after being released from prison by an angel (Acts 12:12).

They appear to have been a family of some financial means as they employed a servant Rhoda (Acts 12:13) …

… and the house was large enough to house the “many people” who “had gathered and were praying” (Acts 12:12) for Peter’s release.

He was a cousin of Barnabas (Col 4:10) and after the relief mission by Barnabas and Paul to the church in Jerusalem, he returned with them to Antioch (12:25).

John Mark joined them on their first missionary journey as a ‘helper’ (13:5), but for unknown reasons abandoned them to return home.

Acts 13:13 From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem.

We don’t know why Barnabas’ youthful cousin quit the first time. Maybe the pressures of ministry were too much for him. Perhaps, the reality of mission work was different from what he had imagined.

In any event, the incident seems to have left Paul with the view that John Mark was unreliable and thus unsuited for mission work. So while Barnabas is keen to take John Mark again on the second mission, but Paul refuses.


Acts 15:37-38 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.

Barnabas doesn’t consider the issue to be as extreme as Paul does, and is willing to give John Mark another chance. Knowing Barnabas’ nature, it wasn’t just because this was his relative – he had done a similar thing for Paul before. Perhaps Barnabas saw a brokenness and repentance in the young man’s attitude, or was just more forgiving because of Mark’s youthfulness.

But Paul and Barnabas cannot agree and so they go on separate missions, with Mark accompanying Barnabas:

Acts 15:39-41 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.


The Bible doesn’t attempt to sweep this account of disagreement among prominent early church leaders under the carpet. It doesn’t try to sanitize or justify the issue. The Antioch church was a church with real people. So if you fall into the category of someone who believes in and is looking for a perfect church, then this passage will startle you.

Some people say, “I love God, but I don’t like Christians.” One of the worst insults you can tell a parent is, “I like you, but I dislike your children”. But just as family members love and support one another despite their differences, God expects the same of his children. The solution is not to go into isolation and avoid other believers, because someone has offended you at some point. There has never been a church without real people, warts and all.


As I heard one pastor very aptly say, “If you’ve come to this church, because you’ve been hurt at another church, just give us some time – we’ll hurt you too”.

Part of serving the Lord is learning to forgive our brothers and sisters and learning to live with and love those who aren’t yet perfect.

John 13:35 “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Eph 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.


There are some people who go the extra mile, who continue to hope and invest, or offer restoration when others have simply moved on.

Barnabas was willing to take a chance on mentoring John Mark when Paul had run out of patience with him and viewed him as being unreliable. Ironically Barnabas had previously extended a chance to Paul when others had deemed him as being too risky.

Barnabas’ faith in John Mark seems justified and his mentorship, along with giving him another chance in the mission field, seems to have paid off. There seems to have been a reconciliation between Paul and Barnabas because Paul later refers kindly to Barnabas in Galatians 2 and 1 Corinthians 9:6.


But it also seems that Mark later became a fellow worker with Paul when the latter was imprisoned in Rome. Paul lists Mark first among his fellow workers.

Philemon 23-24 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers.

Paul sends greetings from Mark and instructs the church at Colossae (in Asia Minor) to welcome him if he visits:

Col 4:10 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.)


Then when Paul writes his last letter before his pending execution, he requests his dear friend Timothy in Ephesus to fetch Mark and to join him and Luke (2 Tim 4:11).

Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.

Facing his execution, Paul wants to spend his last days with Luke, Timothy and Mark. That leaves no doubt as to the fact that Paul changed his opinion about John Mark in later years. In addition he explicitly says that Mark “is helpful to me in my ministry”.

But Mark also assisted the apostle Peter in his ministry as well. Remember that as a youngster, Mark would have known Peter, as it was to Mary’s (the mother of Mark) house that Peter fled on his miraculous escape from prison in Jerusalem.


When Peter is in Babylon 1 he refers to Mark being with him, and affectionately calls the younger man his ‘son’.

1 Pet 5:13 She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark.

According to Papias and many of the early church fathers, Mark acted as the interpreter for Peter. In the 2nd century Irenaeus refers to Mark as “the disciple and interpreter of Peter”. 2

1 Against Heresies” Book 3 Chapter 1 2 Jerome believed this to be a pseudonym for Rome. The Church of Rome are eager to place Peter in Rome and thus agree with this view, based on the fact that Mystery Babylon seems to refer to Rome in the book of Revelation (17:5,9). But as the Believer’s Bible Commentary states, “There is no evidence that Rome was ever called Babylon until after the writing of the Book of Revelation in AD 90–96, many years after Peter’s death”.


Almost all of the earliest church fathers agree that the second gospel was compiled by Mark recording Peter’s recollection of the Lord’s ministry on earth.

Regarding the Gospel of Mark, Papias cites John the Elder, “The Elder used to say: Mark, in his capacity as Peter’s interpreter, wrote down accurately as many things as he recalled from memory—though not in an ordered form—of the things either said or done by the Lord. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied him, but later, as I said, Peter, who used to give his teachings in the form of chreiai, 1 but had no intention of providing an ordered arrangement of the logia of the Lord.”

1 In antiquity and the Byzantine Empire, a chreia (pronounced cray-uh) was a brief, useful anecdote about a particular character.


Eusebius, quoting Clement, adds the detail that Mark compiled his gospel at the request of Christians in Rome:

The Gospel according to Mark had this occasion. As Peter had preached the Word publicly at Rome, and declared the Gospel by the Spirit, many who were present requested that Mark, who had followed him for a long time and remembered his sayings, should write them out. And having composed the Gospel he gave it to those who had requested it… This is the account of Clement. 1

1 Eusebius, Eccl. History 6.14.5-7


A widespread, but somewhat late, tradition credits Mark with founding the church in Alexandria. Both the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria, Egypt, claim their roots back to Mark. 1

1 However Clement (2nd century) and Origen (3rd century) who were based in Alexandria, make no reference to Mark’s connection with their city. It is attested by Eusebius, Jerome, the Apostolic Constitutions and Epiphanius. However Act 2:10 indicates that there was representation from Egypt on the Day of Pentecost, so it’s possible that some of the 3000 saved that day could have taken the gospel back to Egypt. In Acts 18 Apollos is called “a native of Alexandria” who “had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervour and taught about Jesus accurately”, so it’s possible that there was already a church in Alexandria at this stage. It also says that “he knew only the baptism of John”, so it’s unlikely he was trained by a movement founded by Mark, who would have known about baptism from Barnabas and Paul. Because of the strong tradition, it is quite possible that at some point Mark came to Alexandria and became a prominent leader in the church. But it is unlikely that Mark was the first Christian leader active in Alexandria in the 1st century. There were probably others before him.


There is no earlier evidence, but the 4th century “Acts of Mark” says that Mark was martyred, while being dragged through the streets of Alexandria.

So this man, who as a youngster had dropped out of a missionary journey, later becomes a trustworthy assistant to both Paul and Peter, writer of a gospel, missionary to Rome, Asia Minor and Egypt and possibly a faithful martyr for Jesus.


Had it not been for the encouragement of Barnabas, who believed in him and gave him another chance when others viewed him as a quitter, I wonder if his story would have had the same ending.

Young people today need a few adults like Barnabas – who will mentor and father them - believe in them no matter what, stick with them through thick and thin, and stand by them in times of trouble. This ministry of encouragement can have an lasting effect on the lives of young people.



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