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Unleashed: The Defender

Message Notes

John Mark had a great opportunity.


When the church in Antioch was led to send out the very first missionary team to the pagan world, Barnabas and Paul,  John Mark was asked to join them. Acts 13:5 makes note “John was with them as their helper.” We all know what that means. He was to be their “goffer”, he was aboard that first mission trip and he was the caddy of the trip.

While John Mark might have been used merely as an extra-hand on these missionary journeys, he would have the opportunity to learn and serve with the best-of-the-best. He was fortunate to be among them. When they sailed to Cyprus, John Mark observed the power of God at work in the Governor’s house. He saw this important leader embrace Christianity. John Mark was witnessing the power of God!

John Mark faced his greatest challenge at the next stop on the trip. Something had happened on this first leg of the journey that was a challenge to John Mark, something that John Mark could not take, and he quit the team and went home.

  • Some have suggested that John got homesick for home and mother or he tired of his helper role on the team.
  • Some have suggested that he looked ahead to the next part of the journey, a long hike through rough and dangerous mountains, and chose not to go
  • Some have even suggested that he didn’t like the leadership change going from his uncle Barnabas to the blunt force often seen in Paul.

Regardless of the reasoning, John Mark left. He was was scared/angry/discouraged whatever the reasoning it was enough for him to want to throw in the towel and call it quits. Maybe some of you are there right now.

  • Your marriage is falling apart. You have tried and tried everything you know to fix things: kids didn’t make the problems go away, that away trip didn’t make the problem go away, your attempts to escape (through pornography, or alcohol, or binge watching Netflix) don’t ease the pain. You’re ready to throw in the towel, to call it quits.
  • Remaining sober is not as easy as it use to be. Before you could easily write off the pain you felt as something that was only temporary, but would soon diminish as you remained sober. But the pain hasn’t left. It’s been 6 months, 12 months, 2 years and you still feel the nagging desire to dive head first into your temptations.
  • The church has nothing more to offer you. The Christ’s church is supposed to be something different, but time and time again you feel burnt by those in it. You feel left out, unimportant, not spiritually-filled, so why bother? If the church is not going to give you what you need, why would you stick around?
  • There are people in your life that you simply cannot take any longer. You have tried and tried, but they just don’t get it. They are stubborn, hateful, ungrateful, self-absorbed. They don’t have your back so why would you have theirs? You could cut your losses and they might not even know the difference.

You want to go out like John Mark. You want to bail. You want to go home. You want to jump ship. You’re tired. You feel alone. You are scared. You are worn-down. You have lost hope. You don’t see a way forward. It’s over.

I don’t know the mistakes you have made or where your heart is this morning. I am not going to try to judge you because I have my own slew of bailout moments, of mistakes, of opportunities ruined. Here is what I do know: you are not defined by your mistakes; you are defined by Jesus’ love for you. No matter how filthy, worthless, letdown, or disposable you might feel this morning, there is someone who views you as clean, and worthy, and extremely important. So, important in fact, he was willing to die for you.


When things got tough for John Mark, he decided he would take the easy route. He left his teammates. He deserted them. But John Mark would not be defined by this mistake. No, far from it. You see, we have a God who uses us even in our weakness. God continues to work through his broken people: he can make a way out of no way and write straight with crooked lines.

One of the things I admire most about the Biblical text is that it does not “clean up” stuff like this. Our heroes are not perfect men, they are flawed, and emblematic of the human condition: gifted and strong, but struggling too with the same issues and demons that haunt us all.

Here is where I would like us to take away this morning from this story is Acts. We talked about the first part already: you are not defined by your mistakes. John Mark would go on to do remarkable things for the Kingdom of God, including writing one of the Gospels in your Bible right now. Part 2 is like it, but have proven to be much harder for us: you should not define others by their mistakes.


  1. Stop looking for the perfect church with the most perfect people who believe the most perfect beliefs. Go worship a perfect God today with a congregation of flawed people (like John Mark) who need grace as much as you do.
  2. Jesus loves you right now for who you are right now, but he refuses to leave you there.
  3. Jesus says to you, "I get to define you. Because of what I have done you are clean. You are holy. You are worthy. You are bold. You are beautiful. You are strong. You are righteous. You are magnificent. You are mine."

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