Historical note...Although consistent with the facts of what we actually know about John Mark, most of this sermon is made up.
Hello, my name is Mark; John Mark. I am the Mark who wrote what you call the Gospel of Mark. I did not call it the Gospel of Mark. I named it…
ESV Mark 1:1 The gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
It is the euangellion… the good news.
Let me tell you my story.
-- I was born in 16 AD. We didn’t call it that, but you do. We called it “the 2nd year of Caesar Tiberius”. I was 14 years old when I first met Jesus.
--You may have noticed I have two names John and Mark. John is Jewish from my Mother. It means “Jehovah is gracious”. Certainly, he has been. I actually knew Jesus. How gracious is that.
--My dad named me Mark. It is a good Roman name. It has to do with the god… Mars; the god of war. Mark is a warrior name. It was not such a good name for me… in the beginning.
--I grew up in Jerusalem. My parents were wealthy. I spoke Aramaic and Hebrew, with my mom and Latin with my dad. I learned Greek so I could communicate with everyone else. I wrote the Gospel in Greek.
--The home I grew up in was big. It had an upper room big enough for church. But that was after the resurrection. That is, the resurrection of Jesus.
But I get ahead of myself. Let me tell you how I first met Jesus…
As I said, I was a teenager when I first saw him. I had heard about him, like everyone else. He was a big deal. He was in all the news. Jesus was causing quite the stir. I remember clearly that first day I saw him. My mom, Mary, there were a lot of Mary’s, Mom burst into my room and told me to come on, “The Messiah from Nazareth is entering Jerusalem”.
We ran out of the upper room of our house; down the street; and out the Eastern Gate of Jerusalem. It is known as the Golden Gate. It is the gate that leads to the Mount of Olives and on to Bethany. When mom and I got there the people were already cheering. People where waving branches. People were spreading their cloaks on the road. There Jesus was riding on a donkey. "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!"
Mom asked me, “Do you remember the Prophet Zechariah from Sabbath school?” Do you remember…?
ESV Mark 10:43 “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
Mom already believed. Mom knew he was the One. It was quite the entrance. All Jerusalem was alive with the news!
That was the first time I saw him. But that was just the beginning what I saw that week.
Some of Jesus’s disciples were our relatives. Peter and Andrew were cousins of some kind to my mother. Anyway, they came to the house later that week. I began to follow them around.
--I saw Jesus drive out a bunch of merchants in the temple… that caused another stir.
--I saw Jesus argue with the Pharisees and the other religious leaders. They all stormed off in a huff.
--I heard him teach all that week… pretty exciting stuff about the destruction of the temple. Herod’s Temple was almost finished. It was gorgeous.
--I snuck into the upper room of our house. I heard Jesus say… “This bread is my body. This wine is my blood.”
--Mom didn’t know it but, I followed them, that night, out of our upper room, out of the Eastern gate, out of Jerusalem, across the Kidron creek, up to the Mount of Olives.
It was a terrible night.
I was nearby when Jesus told Cousin Peter… “You all will desert me”.
ESV Mark 14:29-30 Peter said, "Even though they all fall away, I will not." And Jesus said to him, "Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times."
While the rest were asleep, I heard Jesus pray…
ESV Mark 14:36 "Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will."
I didn’t know what Jesus was praying, not, until…I saw…
ESV Mark 14:43-50 …Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, "The one I will kiss is the man. Seize him and lead him away under guard." And when he came, he went up to him at once and said, "Rabbi!" And he kissed him. And they laid hands on him and seized him. But one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. And Jesus said to them, "Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled." And they all left him and fled.
And we all left him and fled. I was the young man who ran in Mark 14:51…
ESV Mark 14:51 And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.
I was afraid. I was ashamed. I ran naked to the upper room.
I did not see Jesus die. I was hiding with some of the other disciples in the upper room. I regret that I was not there for Jesus. I should have followed him to the cross, but I was afraid.
But I did see him alive again… at our house; in the upper room. Not once, but twice.
ESV John 20:19-21 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you."
ESV John 20:26-28 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!"
I whole heartedly agree with Thomas… “My Lord and my God!”
But that was not the end of the story. In fact for me that was just the beginning…
Just 50 days later, after Jesus returned to heaven, we were in the upper room again. Mom’s upper room was a place of victory and defeat.
ESV Acts 2:1-4 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
That was a big day. The church went from 120 which met in our house… to over 3,000! Then we exploded all over Jerusalem. We were turning Jerusalem upside down.
We caused so much trouble that it wasn’t long before Cousin Peter was arrested.
We prayed… Stephen had been stoned. James had been beheaded. God answered our prayer… An angel released Peter. But we didn’t believe it.
ESV Acts 12:11-16 When Peter came to himself, he said, "Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting." When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. Recognizing Peter's voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. They said to her, "You are out of your mind." But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, "It is his angel!" But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed.
All I wanted, from then on, was to be a Jesus disciple. I wanted to be just like Cousin Peter. I wanted to preach Jesus. I wanted to never be ashamed of Jesus again. I wanted to leave the upper room and go into the world with the Gospel! I wanted to be a fearless disciple.
Another of mom’s cousins gave me that chance…
Cousin Barnabas got me and Saul, the one you call Paul, but then he was Saul, and took us with him to Antioch… to be missionaries!
ESV Acts 13:2-5 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John to assist them.
I was doing what I wanted to do. I was on the road as a missionary. I was their assistant. Because I could write, I sent their letters. I kept the records… I was their secretary. Wow, how cool was that.
And it was cool for a while. But it was scary. I became afraid, again. I ran, again.
ESV Acts 13:13 Now Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. And John left them and returned to Jerusalem,
I was afraid. I went back to the upper room.
I thought I was done being a missionary; being a disciple. But Barnabas gave me another chance… But it caused a row between him and Paul.
ESV Acts 15:37-41 Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed.
Paul thought I was a coward. He was right. But I found my courage. I worked hard to be a fearless disciple. Later, Paul changed his mind about me. I was mentioned three times in Paul’s letters…
ESV Colossians 4:10 …and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions- if he comes to you, welcome him),
ESV Philemon 1:23-24 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers.
ESV 2 Timothy 4:11 Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.
I was useful to Paul… again. I was a fearless disciple.
Now, let me tell you why I have told you my story…
I was in Rome when Emperor Nero arrested Paul and Peter. It was a scary time for Christians in Rome after the fire. Nero blamed us for the fire. He arrested a bunch of us.
There in Rome, Cousin Peter wrote this precious line about me…
ESV 1 Peter 5:13 She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son.
Since I had been Peter’s secretary before, Peter called me to his cell in that nasty Roman prison to write for him again. Peter knew he would be executed, soon…. He wanted me to tell our people to be brave… To never be ashamed. To be fearless disciples.
I thought it was a bit ironic that Peter used me to write about not being afraid. I had changed.
So, I wrote Peter’s words into what you call the Gospel of Mark.
I cried when I wrote these words…
ESV Mark 8:34-38 And Jesus called to him the crowd with his disciples and said to them, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? For what can a man give in return for his life? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."
I was never ashamed again. Even when I saw Peter crucified upside down. Or when I saw the sword behead Paul. I never ran, again. I was never ashamed, again. I never returned to the upper room. I took up my cross and followed Jesus!
That is why I tell you my story… Be brave. Never be ashamed of Jesus. Be a fearless disciple!
Historical note… In AD 68, on a mission trip to Alexandria, Mark was martyred by being dragged through the city by a rope around his neck until he was dead.
Another historical note… John Mark’s symbol is the winged lion.
January 8, 2017
Los Alamos Church of Christ