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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.
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.
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.