I couldn’t believe it! Two great men of God fighting with each other. Worse than that, the fight was over me! My Uncle Barnabas and the great apostle Paul were red-faced, breathing hard, speaking and shouting at each other because they disagreed about me. Barnabas wanted to take me on the next missionary journey, but Paul refused.
I remember well what caused this. I had lived with my mother, Mary, in our big house in Jerusalem. When Peter was in prison, awaiting execution, my mother hosted a prayer meeting to pray for Peter’s release. While we prayed, a knock came at the door. Our servant, Rhoda, went to the door. She met Peter there and was so excited that she forgot to let him in but came to report that Peter was there. We couldn’t believe it, but God had answered our prayers. That night, after Peter related his escape experience, he talked to me, and I trusted Christ as my own Savior.
Later, after God called Paul and Barnabas to mission work among the Gentiles, they came to Cyprus, where I was living. When they saw my love for the Lord and enthusiasm to serve Him, they invited me to join them on their missionary journey. I was thrilled to death and jumped at the opportunity. After evangelizing with them in Cyprus, we journeyed to Perga in Pamphylia. After a brief time, I abandoned them there.
Why did I abandon them? I’m not sure. As a Jew, I learned to avoid Gentiles and treat them like dogs. But I saw Paul and Uncle Barnabas talking to Gentiles, leading them to the Lord. That made me cringe. Did they have a right to do that? Was God interested in Gentiles?
Something else bothered me too. Uncle Barnabas had befriended Paul and brought him into the fold of Christians at a time when Christians were afraid of him. Barnabas had discipled him and had even traveled to Tarsus to recruit Paul for the ministry in Antioch. Now Paul was “taking over” and leading the missionary group instead of Barnabas. Was that right? Shouldn’t Barnabas be the lead minister? With these beginnings of anger, resentment, and bitterness, I left them to go home.
Yet my heart churned within me. Something was wrong. Guilt overwhelmed me. Maybe God really did love the Gentiles. Maybe God wanted Paul to be the leader. It was difficult for me to resolve this.
About five years later, Paul and Uncle Barnabas returned from their first missionary journey. They gave glowing reports about how God had blessed their ministry at Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Derbe, and Lystra. They told how the people of Lystra stoned Paul to death and how God had raised him again. Souls accepted Christ. The missionaries started churches. My heart stirred within me, just like when Paul and Barnabas first came to Salamis, Cyprus. God had changed my heart. Now I was willing to go to the Gentiles.
After talking to Uncle Barnabas about my renewed vision and burden, he was determined to take me on their next missionary journey. But Paul would have no part of me because I had been a quitter. They exchanged harsh words almost to the point of violence. Then they agreed to go two separate ways. Paul and Silas went to Syria and Cilicia. Uncle Barnabas and I went to Cyprus. But now, praise the Lord, there were two missionary teams instead of one.
The years passed. As Barnabas and I evangelized, we heard fascinating reports of how Paul and Silas had ministered, winning people to Jesus and starting churches in Philippi, Thessalonica, Corinth, Ephesus, and other places. We praised the Lord and prayed for them! And we were sure they were praying for us. My attitude was changing, and a long-distance friendship was emerging.
Later, Paul was imprisoned in Rome. I had the opportunity to go minister to him. (Col. 4:10 KJV). Our friendship grew, and our love for each other as brothers in Christ strengthened.
Toward the end of Paul’s second imprisonment, Timothy sent me a request from Paul saying, “Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.” (II Timothy 4:11). Those were some of the sweetest words I had ever heard.