A Glance at an Exceptional Mother
Acts 12:1-12 Mary, the mother of John Mark
A remarkable mother quietly appears in the middle of one of the most dramatic stories about the emerging church. The story has been read many times and most likely been brushed aside without taking notice of this woman’s extraordinary life.
The Story Background: Herod Agrippa I was the grandson of Herod the Great and reigned from A.D. 37-44 . It was said that he ran up numerous debt in Rome and fled to Palestine. After some careless statements made by King Agrippa, he was imprisoned by Emperor Tiberius and then released following Tiberius’ death. Later he was made ruler of northern Palestine, to which Judea and Samaria were added. His relationship with Rome was very shaky at this time, so, he cultivated favor with the Jews by persecuting Christians.
Mark, the son of Mary, was an evangelist, an early Christian church leader, and the author of the book of Mark, one of the four gospels written in the Bible. Like a number of other apostles and disciples, “John Mark” was known by two names. Mark (Marcus) was his Roman name, and John was his Jewish name. He is called John in Acts 13:5,13, and Mark in Acts 15:39 and 2 Timothy 4:11. His Roman name was used as the title of the Gospel of Mark to avoid the confusion of having 2 Gospel books named John.
Mary, the mother of Mark, was known as a distinguished Christian woman from Jerusalem. Mark may have been born in or near Jerusalem where his mother lived during the New Testament time. There is no record of his father, but Mark is reported to be a cousin of Barnabas.(Colossians 4:10). Mary’s house was apparently a popular place for Christians, where "many people gathered and prayed" (Acts 12:12). The apostle Peter went to Mary’s house first, after an angel freed him from Herod's prison (Acts 12:6-12).
The apostle Peter refers to Mark as "his son" in 1 Peter 5:13. It is likely that Peter was involved in Mark's conversion and could have been seen as a father-figure to Mark. At the time of Mark’s conversion, Peter would have been about 35 years old, and Mark, substantially younger. Mark, himself, is first mentioned by name in Acts 12:25 and accompanied Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. For some reason, Mark, returned home to Jerusalem after they had travelled as far as Perga in Pamphylia (Acts 12:25; 13:13). It was this incident that later caused a severe disagreement between Paul and Barnabas. Paul refused to take Mark with him on another missionary journey, while Barnabas defended his young cousin (Acts 15:36-40). They did reconcile later because Mark was with Paul in his first imprisonment at Rome (Colossians 4:10, Philemon 1:24). Mark was thereafter with Peter (1 Peter 5:13), and then with Timothy in Ephesus (2 Timothy 4:11). Then he disappears from the record.
Mark witnessed the birth and growth of the Christian church, and personally knew most of the great early Christians before becoming one himself. He was most fortunate to hear and see Jesus teach during His human lifetime.
The Setting: Peter was imprisoned by Herod, and his execution was seemingly imminent. The author, Luke, records Peter's miraculous escape (by an angel) in Acts 12:1-12, and in verse 12 we read this: “And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying.”
This is the only time that the Bible mentions Mary the mother of John Mark, but we can glean quite a bit of information about her.
The Saint, Mark’s Mother:
*Mary, Barnabas’s aunt, was a prominent supporter of the early church.
*Obviously, she did not talk down the church but lifted up the early body of believers and showed tremendous bravery in supporting the distinctive doctrines. The church at this time, was going through great persecution and James, the brother of John had already been martyred. Through all of this, Mary still welcomed the church into her home at great personal risk.
*Mary was a praying woman (mom) and raised a believing son who loved the work of God. He was known to be useful to both the apostles, Paul and Peter (cf. 2 Timothy 4:11; I Peter 5:13). Without question, his life (Mark) reflects the faith-filled influence of his extraordinary mother.
Thought: What is meant by the phrase, “Exceptional women?” The exceptional woman supports the pastor and leadership of the church, and lifts them up in prayer. The exceptional woman encourages other women to stand strong for Christ and share their faith even when others strongly disagree. The exceptional woman is faithful in teaching and instructing her children in the things of God openly and in private. The exceptional women fights against the worlds philosophy that bombards the minds of her children and strives to protect them from the perilous days they live in. Children are being influenced to doubt the validity of God’s Word, and the power of God’s Word to live out the abundant life Jesus has promised. The exceptional woman is a mom that is mindful of her children’s needs and has a heart filled with unconditional love. I pray we all will be exceptional women reflecting the gospel of Christ until He comes.
Happy Mother's Day!
Resources: GTY Ministries; gotquestions.com