Missouri Synod Church in Downtown Memphis

April 25 – The Feast of St. Mark

st_mark_by_donatelloLet us pause to celebrate the life of Saint Mark, the evangelist. It is believed that this is the John Mark mentioned in the book of Acts (Acts 12:12, Acts 12:25, Acts 13:5, Acts 15:37-40) and by the Apostle Paul in his letters.

Mark was well-educated and came from an affluent family. His mother was a widow named Mary. Mary  was a financial supporter of Jesus and the disciples and strong supporter of the early church. It is her house that Peter went to after being released from prison and where many of the brethren were praying. Indeed, it would seem that the relationship of Mark and his mother to Peter was a close one. In one of his letters, Peter refers to Mark as his son (1 Peter 5:13).

Mark is believed to be one of the 70 disciples whom Jesus sent out by twos to spread the good news. (Luke 10:1) Some also believe that Mark was one of the disciples that turned away from Christ (John 6:66) but that Peter reached out to Mark and led him back to the faith.

After their work in Jerusalem, Barnabas and Paul took Mark with them on their return to Antioch (Acts 12:25). After that, the three started on St. Paul’s first apostolic journey. When Paul and Barnabas resolved to push on from Perga into central Asia Minor, Mark, departed from them, if indeed he had not already done so at Paphos, and returned to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). When they got to Perga, scriptures simply say “John left them and returned to Jerusalem.”

Later in the book of Acts, as Paul and Barnabas are preparing for the second apostolic journey, Paul refused to take Mark with him. Mark is Barnabas’ cousin and this a rift. Paul ended up going alone, while Barnabas and Mark sailed to Cyprus (Acts 15:37-40).

The_Martyrdom_of_Saint_MarkTen years later, all seems to be well between Mark and Paul. While imprisoned in Rome, Paul writes to the Colossians and says: “…and Mark, the cousin of Barnabas, touching whom you have received commandments; if he come unto you, receive him” (Colossians 4:10). It seems that Mark did journey to Rome, because later, Paul sends greetings to Philemon from Mark, and calls him his fellow-worker. It is most likely that Mark was still in Rome when St. Paul was put to death.

It seems that Mark then traveled to Asia Minor, the place where he, Paul and Barnabas were heading when Mark deserted them because later, in a letter addressed to the churches in Asia Minor, Peter begins by saying, “The Church that is in Babylon (Rome), elected together with you, saluteth you, and (so doth) Mark my son.” (1 Peter 1:1).

Although there is little to support it, the Coptic Orthodox church teaches that Mark made several trips to Alexandra where he established a church and that it was on a return visit that the unbelievers in the city grabbed St. Mark, put a rope around his neck and dragged him through the city until he was dead.

The symbol for St. Mark used in early church art is the Lion. It comes from Mark’s description of John the Baptist’s voice “crying out in the wilderness” (Mark 1:3). His voice is said to have sounded like that of a roaring lion. This lion symbolism also appears in a vision of four winged creatures by the Prophet Ezekiel (1:10). Ezekiel’s vision is used to represent the four evangelists. Matthew is depicted as a human, Mark as a lion, Luke as a bull, and John as an eagle.

The stained glass windows at Trinity have a mistake made by the window maker. It has St. Mark depicted as a Bull, and St. Luke depicted as a Lion.

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