Paul and his companions then left Paphos by ship for Pamphylia, landing at the port town of Perga. There John Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem.
Acts of the Apostles 13:13 NLT
It is only one verse, but it brings an amazing insight into the early work of the Spirit through the spreading of the gospel. Two things happen in this passage. First, there was a shift in the primary leadership of the first missionary team. Until this moment, Barnabas was the headliner. Saul/Paul was second. Perhaps after the miracle with Bar-Jesus in Paphos worked through Paul, the leadership shifted. From this point forward, it became obvious that Paul was taking the lead in the working of miracles and speaking.
Second, the team was also heading primarily to Gentiles from this point forward. This direction seemed to upset the young man, John Mark. He was a cousin of Barnabas and was probably invited on the trip just to learn. If you go back to chapter twelve, the Spirit had called out Barnabas and Paul, and the church at Antioch had sent the two of them out after prayer and fasting and laying on of hands. John Mark was not named in that appointment or time of prayer.
We learn later that a division in the group caused John Mark to go back home. In chapter 15, Paul and Barnabas will split over Barnabas’ desire to invite John Mark on their second missionary journey. Paul felt John Mark abandoned them on the first trip.
I see here that even when the Spirit is working and people are being transformed, the flesh can still cause division. Personalities move people to leave and not want to be a part of what is happening. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to leave after seeing the miracle at Paphos of a sorcerer blinded and the governor becoming a believer. But it appears John Mark’s Jewish roots had a problem with the team spending too much time and energy on reaching the Gentiles with the gospel.
May we always be sensitive to the flesh that would love to bring division.
Holy Spirit, please help me not to allow my flesh to divide Your work. Instead, help me to celebrate what You are doing, even if it looks different than what I may be familiar with or what I want.
Scroll down to share what you feel God is saying to you based on today’s reading.