A shepherd’s staff gracefully glides into the hot desert sand, before silently halting to bear the weight of he who wields it. A ball of fire towering in the heavens, 93 million miles away, feels much closer on this searing afternoon. Homeostasis is working overtime to keep the aged man’s body temperature stable; sweat streams to the parched sand. Whether by time or by heat, the man has nearly forgotten what led him out to the backside of this desert. It once was not like this; he didn’t grow up a shepherd; the roots he established, family and friends, to not reach back to his childhood, his heritage. However, by the time this day concludes, he will be set on track for a head-on collision with his past.
The story is that of Moses, who after murdering an Egyptian taskmaster fled his homeland for fear of his life (Exo. 2:11-12,15). While a Hebrew by birth, he grew up in the opulent palace of Pharaoh, taken in by the Pharaoh’s very daughter (Exo. 2:8-10). Moses did not let the regality of his upbringing overshadow his heritage though. While he slept on silk, ate with the rich, and was provided for beyond his needs; his people, the Hebrews, were slaves building monuments of the man who slept just down the hall (Exo. 1:8-11).
Moses’ life changed when he murdered a man. Crimson stained sand marked his culpability. He fled. Put down roots with some shepherds and attempted to escape the past, all the while his future pulled him closer to the moment that realigned his life. There’s a place out there in Africa somewhere beneath the sand, or a city, the exact latitude and longitude of the holy ground where Moses stood (Exo. 3:5). It was a defining moment, a second chance.
Fast forward a millennia, or two, and we find ourselves in Jerusalem, the late 30’s AD. Prior to the extraordinary events that had taken place (Jesus' death, burial, resurrection, and glorification), a boy was raised in this beautiful city. A cautious momma’s boy who had a brighter future than even his loving mother realized. He had been raised in the Jewish faith; he knew his Torah well. However, the foundational teaching of his upbringing was soon added onto with new revelation. His mother established one of the first home churches of a new ideology that didn’t even have a name yet, Christianity (Acts 12:12).
I do not know when it happened, maybe the night Peter, who was suppose to be in prison, came knocking on the gate at his house (Acts 12:13). Maybe it was hearing the messages of the apostles about the life of Jesus, both formal and around the house. It’s even possible that while still a child, he may have sat on Jesus’ lap. All those times where history now; John Mark was a man.
Mark was cousins with Barnabas (Col. 4:10), colleague of the apostle Paul (Acts 9:27, 11:25), and as family tends to work, he got dragged along for one of their missionary journeys (probably not of his total volition). Eventually, the adventurous spirit rubbed off, and cautious Mark wanted to go back home. At Pamphylia, he decided to ditch the guys and sailed home to his comfortable bed and mother’s good cooking (Acts 13:14). Paul wasn’t happy (he did get stoned during the trip Mark skipped out of after all). Later Barnabas, always being the one to give someone an opportunity (Paul knew this better than anyone), wanted to give Mark another shot; Paul refuses (Acts 15:37-40). Here we now have Paul and Barnabas, two primary Biblical figures of teamwork, in a serious disagreement that results in them going separate ways; Mark was to blame.
As you can see, Mark made some bad calls and caused once tranquil waters to be disturbed. Got to love us humans. However, this was not the end of the story for Mark. He is renown in Christendom for many reasons, mostly for the fact of being the guy who wrote the Gospel of Mark; the first penned of the Synoptics and the source from which Matthew and Luke would borrow some 95% to scribe their own. Paul later ended up forgiving him and loved him; Mark worked extensively with Paul during his imprisonments (Col. 4:10-11; 2 Tim. 4:11; Philemon 24). He was even closer to the apostle Peter; to the point that Peter considered him a son (1 Peter 5:13). Theologians ascribe Peter as being Mark’s primary source for his gospel. Early on, Mark had some bad judgment calls, but fortunately he was given a second chance.
Fast forward another two millennia and we arrive in a complex and interesting time in the age of the church. A time, different, but similar to the political scheme Moses and Mark would have known. Oppressive government systems; sin saturated society; humanity’s deprivation ever rising. This is the climate of the world in which you awoke to this morning; welcome to the twenty-first century.
The world you and I live in is nowhere near the same as the worlds Moses or Mark would have known. However, there is one constant that spans across Moses’ desert and Mark’s escape from missionary work and lands right at your front door, God’s grace.
Moses murdered a man, and God gave him a second chance; Mark ran away from ministry, and God gave him a second chance. What’s your story? What second chance has God given you? You’re never too far from God or too deep in sin to negate yourself of his love. Whether you believe in them or not is really beside the point; God believes in second chances.