Acts 12:25

Sunday, 11 December 2022

And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their ministry, and they also took with them John whose surname was Mark. Acts 12:25

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The previous verse noted the growth and multiplication of the word of God. Now we come to the final verse of Chapter 12, beginning with, “And Barnabas and Saul.”

Despite Barnabas being mentioned first, the focus of the book of Acts, from this verse forward, will be the ministry of Saul (Paul). Obviously, the content is given to reveal the workings of Jesus and the Holy Spirit in the further growth and multiplication of the church, but Paul will be the main instrument of focus till the end of the book. Noting him now is a way of reminding our thoughts of his inclusion in the narrative and preparing our minds for the details that lie ahead concerning his ministry.

The last mention of Barnabas and Saul was in verse 11:21 (also the last verse of that chapter) –

“Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. 30 This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.” Acts 11:29, 30

Of these two, it now says they “returned from Jerusalem.” With these words, one can see that the contents of verses 12:1-24 were an insert into the narrative that is not necessarily chronological but rather categorical. It was given to show various aspects of what occurred, especially related to Peter. With that now complete, the narrative returns to its mainstream of thought where Saul (Paul) will become the main focus (as noted above) and Peter will no longer be the focus. He will appear for a few words in Acts 15, but that is it.

This is clearly showing that the move is away from focusing on Israel and the Jewish people and is going to be more and more towards the nations and among the Gentiles. A careful noting of all that Paul does during these chapters will show that almost everything said and done by Peter will be repeated by Paul. This was highlighted in the introduction to Acts and it will now become more and more evident as the narrative continues.

As for Barnabas and Saul, it next notes, “when they had fulfilled their ministry.” This is referring to the citation from Acts 11 above. They were chosen to deliver relief to those in Judea. That task is now complete and so they are returning from Judea to Antioch, as can be deduced from the first verses of the next chapter. Of them, it says, “and they also took with them John whose surname was Mark.”

Rather, the verb is an aorist participle. It rightly reads, “having taken with them John whose surname was Mark.” This is the same person mentioned in Acts 12:12 who was a cousin to Barnabas. See the notes on that verse to get a fuller picture of him. Of this note concerning Mark, Charles Ellicott says –

“The choice is, of course, partly explained by his relationship to Barnabas, but it shows also that he entered heartily into the work of the conversion of the Gentiles; and owing, as he did, his own conversion to Peter, it would naturally be regarded as a proof of that Apostle’s interest in it.”

Ellicot’s thoughts are, quite possibly, the opposite of the truth. As was noted in an earlier commentary, there is not substantial proof that the Gentiles at Antioch had been evangelized. Various source texts disagree on whether it was Greek-speaking Jews or Gentiles. In the Acts narrative, Peter has seen the conversion of the house of Cornelius. Other than that, and the noting of the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch, the focus has been almost solely on the conversion of the Jews.

However, once the missionary trip of Barnabas and Saul gets started, a few key verses must be considered –

“So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. And when they arrived in Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. They also had John as their assistant.” Acts 13:4, 5

“Now when Paul and his party set sail from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John, departing from them, returned to Jerusalem.” Acts 13:13

“Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, ‘It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles.’” Acts 13:46

“Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work.” Acts 15:37, 38

John Mark will be taken on the mission trip that Barnabas and Saul went on. It will first note that this team “preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews.” Immediately after that, it will detail the conversion of a Gentile man named Sergius Paulus.

It is unknown why John Mark departed. It simply says that he “had not gone with them to the work.” It can be speculated on all day why this was so, but the noting of his departure came directly after the conversion of the Gentile Sergius Paulus. As such, it may be that John Mark found this inappropriate and rebelled against any further evangelism. For now, the main thought is that the narrative has finally turned more specifically to the coming ministry of Saul who is Paul.

Life application: As you read the Bible, it is often the case that an introduction or a seeming side note in the narrative will be made that seems out of place. But shortly that detail becomes the main focus of the narrative. A good example of this is found at the very end of Genesis 22 in verses 22:20-24.

Something that seems completely irrelevant to the narrative that precedes it is introduced. From there, the main narrative continues in Genesis 23. But then in Genesis 24, one name of the listing at the end of Genesis 22 suddenly comes into focus – Rebekah. The narrative of her then fills Genesis 24.

As you read the Bible, make mental notes of these seemingly unrelated verses. In considering them, you will often be given great treasure to consider later in the narrative. There could even be information early in the Old Testament that waits until the New Testament to be revealed, but when it is seen, it gives us the sure understanding that the Bible has a single overall Author, even if it has come through many men of God.

Pay heed and rejoice in the wonderful words that are given. It all serves a great purpose for us to consider.

Heavenly Father, thank You for this marvelous word You have given us. It is so precise and detailed, and it fills us with excitement with each turn of the page. There are mysteries to be uncovered and details to be revealed if we just think about them as we continue through the narrative. Yes, Lord, thank You for this precious word. Amen.