Acts 15:36 After some time had passed, Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s go back and visit the brothers and sisters in every town where we have preached the word of the Lord and see how they’re doing.” 37 Barnabas wanted to take along John Mark. 38 But Paul insisted that they should not take along this man who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone on with them to the work. 39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed off to Cyprus. 40 But Paul chose Silas and departed, after being commended by the brothers and sisters to the grace of the Lord. 41 He traveled through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
I read a few commentaries and posts about this passage and found some really interesting thoughts from a few different angles.
John Piper's sermon Barnabas: The Weakness of a Great Leader
Dr Greg Harris post: Paul and Barnabas Split: The Progression of John Mark
Piper fleshed these points out in much greater details but he summarized it this way....
Harris notes (sorry, this is a bit long, but I really appreciated his perspective):
While this sharp disagreement between two of our heroes in the faith could cause some concern, we should be thankful to Luke for revealing the humanity of these two men. That Luke is willing to record not only the marvelous events during the establishment of the church, but also the rough patches as well, lends credibility to his account.....
Who was right? Barnabas or Paul? .... In a way, they both were right. It wouldn’t have been productive for Paul to take Mark when he didn’t trust him, but Barnabas saw the long-term potential in Mark and gave him another chance....
It’s tough to grasp the idea that two of the most influential men in the establishment of the church could have such a heated (remember, violent outburst) disagreement, but at the same time we have the benefit of seeing the big picture. God worked a great deal of good from this situation.
The most obvious working of good is that two missionary journeys were launched rather than just one (Acts 15.39-41). Barnabas and Mark went to Cyprus. Paul and Silas traveled through Syria and Cilicia.
Also, Barnabas shows us a fantastic character lesson by refusing to use his clout to overrule or cause trouble for Paul. We are talking about a man (Barnabas) who led the church in its earliest days (Acts 11.22-24), brought Paul into the work (he was the teacher and Paul the apprentice at one time), lead the first missionary journey (Acts 13.2), and represented the church at the Jerusalem Council. You think Barnabas couldn’t have made trouble for Paul if he had so desired? He could have easily played the “church politics game” and created an even larger issue than it was already.
Though we don’t know the specifics, I believe Paul grew up some through the process as well. He learned how to show grace and forgiveness. We know that later in Paul’s life he commended the ministry of Barnabas (1 Cor 9.6).....
Despite everything that happened at Pamphylia (Acts 13.13) and the emotionally violent disagreement over Mark in Acts 15.36-41, Paul, at the end of his life, found Mark to be very useful for ministry. The man he wanted to leave behind years before had become highly valuable to him. What a change! And this isn’t a change that would have come lightly. Mark must have undergone significant character enhancement since he had last been with Paul, and Paul had grown in his capacity to forgive and recognize the sanctification process in others. It is a beautiful picture of love, grace, perseverance, and restoration.
Here we have this man, John Mark, who clearly messed up in his abandonment of Paul and Barnabas on the first missionary journey. In many cases, a man like this may have tucked his tail between his legs and never been seen again. How easy that might have been. But instead Mark ends up becoming so much more than a failure. God uses the time Mark has alone with Barnabas to mold him into a champion of the early church and a dear friend of the man who once rejected him. How good is God’s process of sanctification?
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage: Job 38-40; Acts 16:1-21