Blowups happen. We set out on the most noble of missions, and it goes sour for one of the tiny team. Strong personalities lead the way, and they have little tolerance for those who bail on the work. Saul fits into the former category and John Mark in the latter. The fallout is not clear until that trip is over and they were ready for missionary trip number two. By that time, we know him as Paul and he and his teammate Barnabas butted heads about that young man who had abandoned them. So much so that they parted ways. Bad news? Not necessarily.
Another problem had already cropped up while they were back in Antioch. Some brethren from Jerusalem had introduced an erroneous doctrine that needed to be addressed, and the debate was on. Paul, never one to shy away from conflict, joined Barnabas in confronting the issue. First, they argued and when that was unsuccessful, they headed to Jerusalem to get answers. A danger zone? Not necessarily.
The apostles and elders resolved the matter, wrote it down and sent the letter along with a few of the leading men of the church back to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. So, we have the Jerusalem church now minus a couple of their leaders. That is never good, right? And Antioch had been engaged in an argument over circumcision, and that is bad, isn’t it? The headaches weren’t over yet. It was about to get worse.
This is where the fuss between Paul and Barnabas came. Great, just great. The church was dealing with a doctrinal problem. That had caused Jerusalem to lose valued human resources, and now the missionary team is squabbling so much that they have split up. Barnabas grabbed John Mark and took off for Cyprus. And Paul? Did we mention who he met while in Jerusalem?
One of the letter carriers who helped solve the spat over circumcision and obligation to the Law was a man named Silas. He was one of the top guns in Jerusalem, and he had traveled back to Antioch with Paul. Say hello to a new missionary partner.
The church in Antioch was dealing with internal problems caused by external sources. They were unable to adequately deal with the issue so they sought outside advice. That journey introduced Silas into the equation, and the rest is history. Souls were saved, and churches were strengthened through their teamwork. Their road was seldom easy but always productive for God’s purposes. Problems will always exist, but they will never stop the Lord’s plan. One missionary team ended up two because of troubles. Divine multiplication. It’s a beautiful thing.
Oh, and that young deserter, he turned out okay. In fact, God used him to write about His Son (Gospel of Mark). As for Him and Paul, the apostle’s last letter speaks of their reconciliation (2 Timothy 4:11). Isn’t God amazing?