“Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions–if he comes to you, welcome him)” (Colossians 4:10).
The “Mark” referenced here in Colossians 4:10 is probably more familiar to modern-day audiences than others mentioned in this chapter due to his association with the Gospel that bears his name. Nevertheless, there is much we can learn by exploring Mark’s background, especially as it relates to his relationship with the Apostle Paul.
About ten years prior to this letter to the Colossian church, Paul and Barnabas embarked together on Paul’s first missionary journey. Mark (also known as John Mark) accompanied them to assist in their efforts. However, we’re also told that Mark elected to leave the team in the midst of their work and return to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). That decision eventually led to a conflict between Barnabas and Paul as they began to prepare for their next trip…
“Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.’
Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus” (Acts 15:36-39 NIV).
So it seems that Paul had serious reservations concerning Mark at one point in their relationship. But Colossians 4:10, indicates that the rift between them had now been healed, for Paul signaled his support for Mark by instructing the Colossians to welcome him if he chose to visit. In fact, the relationship between Mark and Paul later improved to such an extent that Paul made the following request of Timothy, the young pastor of the church at Ephesus: “Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11 NIV).
These passages provide us with a good example to follow, for they reveal Paul’s refusal to hold Mark’s past failure against him and his willingness to provide him with a fresh start. They also reflect well upon Mark for as one commentator observes, “John Mark is an encouragement to everyone who has failed in his first attempts to serve God. He did not sit around and sulk. He got back into the ministry and proved himself faithful to the Lord and to the Apostle Paul.” (1)
(1) Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary [2:150] quoted in Notes on Colossians 2019 Edition Dr. Thomas L. Constable [4:10], https://www.planobiblechapel.org/tcon/notes/html/nt/colossians/colossians.htm#_ftn345