John Mark Biography

The intoxicating excitement of Christ’s resurrection had long since passed.  The Master had left his loyal band of followers to carry on without Him. Soon persecution arose against the bold apostles of this Messiah.  When the apostle Peter was imprisoned, a young man named John Mark joined the first Christians as they prayed desperately in his mother’s spacious home.  After Peter was released from prison, Mark is believed to have become his close companion and assistant for some years.

Then Paul, an ominous persecutor, actually became a Christian.  During those early days after Paul’s conversion, a man named Barnabas trusted Paul and helped convince suspicious church leaders of his authenticity.  When Barnabas and Paul returned to Antioch after a journey to Jerusalem, they brought Barnabas’ young cousin, John Mark, with them.

John Mark

John Mark

Later Paul and Barnabas departed on their first missionary journey and Mark accompanied them.  But somewhere along the way a conflict caused Mark to abandon the two men and return to Jerusalem.  It is not apparent whether Mark simply couldn’t tolerate the rigors of the journey or whether perhaps he disagreed with the new idea of evangelizing Gentiles as well as Jews.  Paul espoused the idea of welcoming Gentiles into the fold on the basis of grace through faith without laying all sorts of Judaistic Law requirements on them.  This was a giant bone of contention in the early church.

After Mark’s abdication Paul wasn’t about to allow him to come along on the next missionary journey.  Barnabas disagreed and the two angrily parted company—Barnabas took his cousin on a mission and Paul took a man named Silas.

It would be sad if this is the way the story ended.  However, later in Paul’s ministry he mentioned Mark’s helpful activities, and when Timothy travelled to the imprisoned Paul in Rome the apostle made the significant request that Mark be brought too because of his great practical use in ministry.

In what ways did Mark serve usefully?  Though we do not read of one case of church planting or preaching or healing by Mark, it may be that his greatest value lay in the practical duties he did for the apostles, thus setting them free to establish churches throughout Asia Minor.  Mark’s writing ability also contributed to a profound gift he left as a spiritual legacy.  Based most likely on oral remembrances of Peter, Mark recorded the gospel bearing his name.  Millions have benefited from the action-packed gospel which emphasizes the sheer power of Christ over all obstacles.  Though his name is mentioned but few times in Scripture, obviously Mark played an important role we can still greatly value today.

What can we learn from John Mark?

John Mark failed early in his Christian life.  Later on, the assistance he offered the apostles may have been of a more practical, menial nature.  Yet Christians like Mark are of prime importance in the church.  If the leaders, preachers, and Bible teachers were constantly bogged down in details and organizational duties there would be little time to exercise their primary gifts.  Thank God for “John Marks.”

Bible Verses about John Mark

Acts 12:12, 25; 13:5, 13; 15:37; Colossians 4:10-11; 2 Tim. 4:11; Philemon 24; 1 Peter 5:13

What questions does this help to answer?

  • Who was John Mark in the Bible?
  • What was the early Church like?
  • How can I support my pastor?

Author Info

Steve Fortosis served for six years as youth minister in several parishes.  Meanwhile he was also working toward his masters, then his doctorate in religious education.  Through the years he has enjoyed teaching on the college and seminary levels and writing professionally.  He has published a number of books including story and prayer compilations, missionary biography, Biblical character biography, devotional lit, children’s lit, and even stories of Bible translation. Presently he resides in Florida with his wife, Debra, where he teaches part-time and writes on a free-lance basis.

Steve Fortosis