When Paul asked that Timothy go with him and Silas on the remainder of the second mission journey, Timothy knew the hardships that he would have to endure. From what happen to Paul on his first visit to Lystra two years before, Timothy knew that struggle was in the future if he signed on with Paul.
On his first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas went to Lystra. On that occasion Paul healed a crippled man who had not been able to walk from the day of his birth (At 14:8). The people of Lystra were overwhelmed. They cried out, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men” (At 14:11). They subsequently called Barnabas, Zeus, and Paul, Hermes (At 14:12). But then some antagonistic Jews showed up from Antioch and Iconium. These persuaded the residents in Lystra to stone Paul, which thing they did, dragging “him out of the city, supposing him to be dead” (At 14:19). Now notice what Luke recorded in the following historical statement: “As the disciples stood around him [Paul], he rose up and came into the city. And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe” (At 14:20).
Young Timothy was in that group of disciples who looked on the body of Paul as if he were dead. Many years after the incident, Paul wrote to Timothy, “But you have fully known my … persecutions, afflictions, which came to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—what persecutions I endured” (2 Tm 3:10,11). Timothy undoubtedly stood there in the crowd of the brethren looking on what they assumed was the dead body of Paul. And then Paul moved a little, stood up, brushed off the dust, and then had a good night’s sleep. With all the bruises from the stoning, he and Barnabas then walked about fifty kilometers over to Derbe. We might assume that Timothy witnessed a direct resurrection from the dead, for they all assumed that Paul was dead on that occasion.
It was not that Timothy did not have an example of persecution that would result from following Jesus as a disciple. He had the example of the former persecution of Paul, but he also had the example of what it meant to be a determined gospel preacher. If a stoned disciple could get up the next day to continue on his mission to another city, then certainly he could at least walk several times back and forth between Lystra and Iconium. He too could live the committed life. For some reason, he was a greatly motivated young man. Paul could see this in him when he arrived on his second visit to Lystra, and thus Paul wanted him to go with him.
For some reason on this second journey Paul had already rejected a young man named John Mark because he formerly did not go with him to the work on the first mission (At 15:38). John Mark turned back when he saw the snow-covered mountains of Pamphylia. Timothy, on the other hand, worked alone in his mission to go back and forth between Lystra and Iconium. One young man was initially a follower, but turned back. The other was an initiator who set out on his own.
There certainly was not that much difference in age between Mark and Timothy. But on the second mission journey, Paul did not want to have Mark with him (At 15:38). On the other hand, Paul desired that Timothy come on a journey where he was going alone with Silas into difficult territory where the gospel had not yet been preached. Paul simply judged Mark not ready, whereas he judged Timothy ready because he had proved himself.
If we take about a twenty-year leap into the future from the time Paul began his second mission trip, things had changed in the life of both Mark and Timothy. It is interesting to note that when Paul was in prison in Rome in A.D. 60,61, Mark had finally caught up with Paul. By this time in his spiritual growth, Mark was able to stand by Paul in a Roman prison. But this was over twenty years after the beginning of the second journey when Paul had rejected the company of Mark. Timothy, on the other hand, was able to stand with Paul after he had been a disciple for only two years. Though Mark about twenty years before immediately went with his cousin Barnabas on to familiar territory in Cyprus on the second mission journey of Barnabas, Timothy was willing as a young disciple to head out into the unknown after only two years of following Jesus on his own.
Discipleship is developed in individuals with different time lines. However, regardless of the time, both Mark and Timothy ended up at the same place in reference to being profitable servants for the Lord.
We have in our New Testaments two Spirit-inspired letters written to Timothy and none written to Mark. However, we must give Mark credit, for the Holy Spirit took his hand and inscribed the book of Mark, whereas the Spirit never used Timothy to write an inspired document of the New Testament. What we have is a document written directly to us by Mark, but two documents written for us by Paul to Timothy.
And then consider also that both 1 & 2 Timothy were written to Timothy who seemed to be discouraged at the time of writing. In the letter of 2 Timothy Paul had to charge Timothy to preach the word of the gospel (2 Tm 4:1-4). In the same letter, Mark was evidently close enough to Timothy that Timothy could fetch him and bring him to Rome where Paul was located in prison. Paul instructed Timothy, “Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is profitable to me for the ministry” (2 Tm 4:11).
By the end of Paul’s life, both Timothy and Mark were profitable to Paul in the ministry of preaching the gospel to the world. Mark had a temporary diversion in his early discipleship, and Timothy had his own discouragements that led to his temporary cessation of preaching the gospel. Nevertheless, both grew in their ministry as profitable disciples. In the end, both assumed their responsibility to preach the word of the gospel.
Regardless of where one finds himself or herself in his or her ministry, he or she can at the end of the day be as Mark and Timothy. It is all about spiritual growth and not staying where one is in the present. And in reference to Timothy, it is not about using one’s childhood in a mixed religious family, or culturally diverse mother and father, as an excuse for not growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Pt 3:18). Discipleship is not about being content with where one is in his or her responsibility to preach the gospel to the world. It is about growing into being a profitable servant for Jesus.
[Next in series: March 27]