Tuesday, 6 June 2017
Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, with Mark the cousin of Barnabas (about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him), Colossians 4:10
Aristarchus is a fellow Jew who is listed three times in Acts (19:29, 20:4, and 27:2). He is mentioned one more time in Philemon. Though a Jew, he was a Macedonian from Thessalonica as well (just as Paul was from Tarsus of Cilicia). Curiously, he is called “my fellow prisoner) here, but in Philemon, he is called “my fellow laborer.” At the same time, Epaphras is called “my fellow prisoner” in Philemon.
There is much speculation about this, such as that they chose to be voluntarily imprisoned with Paul at times in order to help him. This is not impossible to suppose as Paul had an affliction which seems to have required much help (many believe it to be poor eyesight). However, what is just as possible is that terms such as “fellow prisoner,” “fellow servant,” and “fellow laborer” apply to both of them during each instance (all being equally true), but Paul chose to focus on one term or the other for each individual for his own reasons. Whatever the case, Aristarchus is, at this time, a fellow prisoner with Paul. In this capacity, he sends his greetings to those at Colossae.
Along with him is “Mark, the cousin of Barnabas.” He is also a Jew. This would be John Mark who went along with Paul and Barnabas on their missionary journey, but who left that task before it was finished. Because of this, on the next missionary journey, there was a sharp disagreement between Paul and Barnabas. Barnabas wanted to bring Mark along again. The disagreement was so severe that they split apart, each going their own way. Barnabas took Mark and Paul took Silas, and off they went in different directions.
Now, this long time later, it is noted that Paul has received Mark with an open hand once again. What appears to be the case is that at some point Paul had mentioned the strife between himself and Mark to those at Colossae, and he had given instructions that the rift was mended between them. This seems evident from the words “about whom you received instructions.” In telling them about Mark in a favorable manner, he now implores them that “if he comes to you, welcome him.” The old wounds were healed and Paul wanted those at Colossae to be sure to treat him with a warm welcome.
This Mark, also known as John Mark, is noted in 1 Peter 5:13. There Peter calls him “Mark my son.” This is then the same Mark who wrote the Gospel of Mark, and who, according to extra-biblical tradition, became both the bishop at Alexandria, and who was martyred there.
At the ending of Paul’s years, during the writing of 2 Timothy, Paul writes, “Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry.” The old wounds had healed, and Paul saw great value in Mark’s assistance in his ministry which he had once, long ago, abandoned. Paul had forgiven, and Mark had grown up. Together towards Paul’s end, they were a united force in the work of sharing the gospel to the world.
Life application: Forgiving old offenses can be a difficult thing to do, but it is also the right thing to do when there is a uniting in repentance and a willingness to move forward in a new direction. If this is the case, then let the past go, and strive to make a new start with the one you either offended or were offended by. Life is short, and eternity is forever. Which will you direct your actions towards? Look to the long term, be forgiving when it is right and proper, and do great things for the Lord in a united way when it is possible.
Lord God, it is You who created, and it is You who will also make all things new. As we walk in this fallen world, help us to remember this, and to not get bogged down in the mud of despair which surrounds us. There is wickedness, there is intolerance for that which is good, and there is real trouble awaiting those of us who want to be sincerely pleasing to You. But in Christ, there is that great hope of the day when we are swept out of here, and where we will be in the best place of all. Help us to keep our eyes on Jesus as we await that glorious day. Amen.