Ive been thinking about failure lately, particularly my own. I have instances that I remember of things that I could have done better, situations that should have looked different if I had taken a different road. Other thoughts are not so clear. These failures are not as blunt. These failures are not so obvious. The ones that plague me the most are the ones that involve no clear outcome. Its the failures that are covered with kindness and courtesy. Most decent people try their best to not be offensive, so their disapproval of you is only noticed in the smallest of idiosyncrasies…a slight narrowing of the eyes, inconsistencies in stories, reasoning that doesn't add up quite right, and these mysteries are the ones that nag at my insides. What went wrong? What did I do? How could I have done better? It’s this unknown and the fact that I will never know that irks me, but its the finality of the situation, that fact that I didn't get that job or the fact that the relationship didn't work or the fact that I wasn't asked again (be it whatever was asked of me the first time), its this fact that makes me feel insecure or inadequate.
The book of Mark is characterized as the primary synoptic gospel that served as a outline for the other gospels (unless there really was a Q document). The cost of discipleship is another unique trait to the gospel of Mark. Mark understood what it meant to follow after Christ - the weight of it. He understood the brevity of our own declarations and the frailty of our own fortitude.
So who was John Mark and why does his testimony matter? Lets lay out the facts:
- The very fact that his testimony is considered canonical shows us that it has authentication on the divine side and authentication and endorsement of an apostle of Christ and in Mark's case, that would be Peter.
- He was taken on Paul’s first missionary excursion but returned to Jerusalem. (Acts 13:5)
- Paul disagrees with Barnabas about taking John Mark on the next missionary journey because of his previous failure (Acts 15:37-40)
Now some speculation and tradition:
- Traditionally, it is understood that Jesus and the disciples were at Mark’s fathers house during the last supper (passover).
- Mark may have been the young man that fled naked when Jesus was arrested.
We see two instances of Mark that don’t bode well for this young man. He’s a quitter, a coward, and a ranker. He is so afraid in the garden that he leaves his dignity behind in order to flee. He joins Paul and Barnabas only to give up (whatever the reason) and go back to Jerusalem. You could say that he was a failure. I say that he was…in some ways.
But Mark isn't remembered for his failures…he is remembered for writing the primary gospel. He is remembered as Paul’s confident and friend, someone that is helpful to him in ministry (2 Tim 4:11). His words have a sense of immediacy and action (his gospel was written primarily for Romans and Roman culture is a culture of action and doing). Mark focuses on the servanthood of Jesus rather and as mentioned earlier…the cost of discipleship, and maybe it is because of his failures that he does so. So in the end, failure doesn’t define us, it is what we do with our failures. It is defined by what God can do with the broken. It is what the Japanese call kintsukuroi which is, repairing broken pottery with gold or silver lacquer and understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken.