by Roger McCay
19 April 2020
Sermon Passage: Acts 13:5-13
Link to Audio Version
You may have heard of the 5:1 ratio concerning relationships. John Gottman made this ratio famous with his research among 700 married couples (towards helping couples build strong relationships) and the subsequent publishing of his findings. The findings showed that for every negative experience, every negative statement, there needs to be five positive experiences or statements to counter the negative. So, if you say something negative to your spouse (criticizing him or her), in order to counter the negativity, it takes five positive statements. Healthy relationships have demonstrated this to be true, as subsequent research continues to support Gottman’s findings.
Negativity just digs in and is difficult to uproot. Think about it. Negative statements, or criticism, bothers us. They are hard to let go. This is true not only in relationships, but even in self critique. You do something, make something, or perform something, and there are all sorts of good things about it, but one or two things may have gone wrong, or were not just like how you wanted them. What do you zero in on? All the many positives? Often not. It’s those very few negatives that bother you … sometimes for weeks or longer.
Letting go of the negative can be hard. It can be even harder when you compare yourself with others, especially others whom you view as seeming to have so much going for them—envy makes such insecure negativity exponentially worse.
It’s this way with weaknesses. Since we are human, it doesn’t matter what you are into or doing, there is going to be a weakness. The problem is that weakness can sometimes override the whole good of the thing (whatever the thing is), because we can’t let it go. And failure? Overcoming failure can be extremely hard. It can derail whole dreams and plans for the future. It can destroy confidence, and just cause folks to give up.
Such things can cause us to fall to the tendency to let our weaknesses or failures define us. This leads to tremendous insecurity and lack of peace … anxiety. This can become chronic and effect our lives in terrible ways.
In our passage today, we see a great victory in the Lord—miraculous and wonderful—but then, almost immediately afterwards, we see trouble among the victors, with one member of the mission team abandoning the venture. Folks have puzzled over this desertion since the time of its happening, but one thing is clear, the negative overcame the positives at that point, even with miracles at work.
In Acts 13:1-4 we looked, a couple of weeks ago, at how the Spirit of God, through the church in Antioch, sent Barnabas, Saul, and John Mark off to take the gospel to the Roman world. The whole thing has the feel of the beginning of a grand adventure … which, in fact, it was.
We looked at Barnabas and Saul in detail—Barnabas the generous encourager; Saul the former Pharisee, brilliant, and filled with tremendous zeal; both of them gifted teachers and apostles. And, Saul, of course, had the specific call of the Lord upon him to be the Apostle to the Gentiles. They were quite a pair – contrasting, but harmonizing. At one point along this missionary adventure, in Lystra, which we’ll see in Acts 14, they were called Zeus (Barnabas) and Hermes (Paul), as they came across as heroic figures, like gods, as they did the Lord’s work. They both vehemently rejected that comparison, of course. But what a pair.
Then there was John Mark. He was along for the journey with these two amazing men, and v. 5 simply tells us that “they had John to assist them.” There is not a lot to go on with that, it just tells us he was assisting Saul and Barnabas in some way … probably in a number of ways. John Mark was not the main guy in this venture. However, usually, assistants, or aides, are essential to the process for leaders to be successful, leaders such as Saul and Barnabas.
We all have our place and calling in life, during the seasons of our life.
So, who was John Mark? Who was this guy? We know quite a bit about him, actually.
It is thought that John Mark may have known the Lord Jesus during the Lord’s earthly ministry, possibly being the young man who ran away naked when the Lord was arrested (Mark 14:51-52). Mark was there through the whole beginning and growth of the church in Jerusalem. He came from wealth. His family home had servants (Rhoda was one), and it was very large home, large enough to be a regular meeting place for the church. Some conject, and it makes sense, that the upper room where the Last Supper took place was at his family home (Luke 22:12) and was also where the church was meeting when Pentecost took place in Acts 2. It was certainly where the church was meeting, and where Peter ran to, when he escaped from prison (Acts 12:12-13). Mark’s mother, Mary, was, at that point, a widow.