I’m always struck by the last scene in chapter 15. It’s in verses 36 through 41.
Paul suggested to Barnabas that they go and see how well the followers were doing in the cities they had visited and preached in. Barnabas said, “Hey, let’s take my cousin, John Mark along with us.” Paul said, “Yeah, no. When things got tough in Pamphylia, he wimped out on us and took off. I don’t trust him.”
This caused an argument between Barnabas and Paul. And according to the language in the original language, this wasn’t a calm disagreement. Have you ever seen a baseball team manager arguing nose-to-nose with an umpire? Red faced, voice raised, hands on hips? Maybe you’ve even seen a manager kick dirt on the ump?
That seems to be the kind of argument Barnabas and Paul had. The word used for argument in our text can be literally translated as paroxysm. I had to look that one up. The definition of paroxysm is: a sudden attack or violent expression of a particular emotion or activity. Some synonyms are spasm, attack, fit, burst, outburst, eruption, explosion.
These guys really got into it!
And they split up. Barnabas took Mark and went to Cyprus. Paul and Silas went to Syria and Cilicia suh-LISH-ee-uh.
What do we learn from this? Is it a good thing to have knock down, drag out fights with our brothers and sisters in Christ? Of course not. Jesus said, “(The world) will know you are mine by your love for one another.” In this instance, Paul and Barnabas struck out. They blew it. And I’ll bet that they both regretted it.
And there is some evidence that I’m right on this, because we read in Colossians that Paul referred to Mark as “my fellow worker” and he vouched for him to the Colossian church. And then near the end of his life he asked Timothy to bring Mark with him.
Barnabas, who’s name means “Son of encouragement”, and who is referred to as a “good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith”, spent time with Mark discipling him.
How effective was Barnabas’ time with Mark? I’d say it was very effective. Mark wrote what we know today as the Gospel According to Mark.
The Bible does not sugar coat the humanity of the men and women we find it its pages. We see how God powerfully uses them despite their failings.
What do we learn from the violent argument between Barnabas and Paul? That God’s grace is sufficient. If our heart is right, if we truly desire to follow God, when our flesh gets in the way, He will take a disaster and turn it around for His glory.
That doesn’t mean that the next time you have a disagreement with a brother or sister you have license to punch them in the nose, though. :)