Luke tells the painful portion of these events tersely and with little elaboration: "There John Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem." To be a bit more colorful than Luke's telling of John Mark's abandonment of the mission and the mission team, preachers and teachers have said things like: "John Mark couldn't handle it, so he went back home to mommy!" Luke refrains from such gossipy, pejorative language. He tells us later that John Mark's turning back caused a division between Paul and Barnabas when they were preparing for the next missionary trip, but the result was two teams going to different places rather than just one team.* Luke refrains from using sensationalized tabloid language and chooses to tell the story succinctly, but with very colorful wording to say Mark "left them," (which could have been translated, Mark "separated himself from them" or "put some space between Paul and Barnabas and himself" or "was done with Paul and Barnabas and their work.") Thankfully, however, Jesus is the Lord of second chances, and Jesus' leaders give emerging young leaders another chance to prove themselves. Paul and Barnabas, however, had not completed their mission when Mark left. They needed to honor their commitment regardless of what John Mark did. Working as a team of missionaries for Jesus has always been hard. Trying to do it alone, however, is harder and breaks with the model of Jesus — who sent out disciples in groups of two — and the example of Barnabas, Paul, and John Mark.
Precious God, I know you want your servants to work together in unity as they share the Good News of Jesus. I know that many of your servants have been wounded by disagreements with teammates over the way to do their ministries. O Holy Spirit, our Comforter, please work to mend the hearts and the relationships broken by the stresses of mission and ministry. Please give those who have separated the courage to follow the example of Barnabas, Paul, and Peter, who restored John Mark to mission and ministry. In Jesus' name, I pray for this grace. Amen.