“Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, with Mark the cousin of Barnabas (about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him)”
Mark is another of those circle of men with whom Paul served. All these men had a deep sense of mission. Most were Paul’s liaisons to the churches he founded.
“with Mark the cousin of Barnabas”
Barnabas was a “good man,” “Spirit filled” and a man of “faith” (Acts 11:24). This was the man who endorsed Paul after his conversion. The church would not trust him until Barnabas intervened for him.
This is the Mark who wrote the gospel. The New Testament names him 10 times. He traveled with Paul on the first missionary expedition because Barnabas was his uncle (Acts 12:12,25).
Mark was their “assistant” (Acts 13:5). That word means “underrower.” It means he was their “attendant.” He carried the briefcase and the notebook computer. He was the chief cook and bottle washer. He carried the bags. He made the reservations.
When the going got difficult, Mark all of a sudden remembered that he had an appointment with his mother. As he walked down the street people would say, “How are the clean sheets? How’s mom’s cookies? Did you see any pirates in Pamphylia?” He was the subject of public ridicule.
Mark defected from the missionary enterprise. He turned quitter (Acts 13:13). Paul and Barnabas quarreled over Mark because he left Paul in the lurch on the mission field. Because of this desertion, Paul did not want him on any future team (Acts 15:36-39).
An added complication was Mark’s blood relationship to Barnabas. This also caused the breach to widen. Paul and Barnabas went their separate ways. Paul took Silas on his missionary expeditions and Barnabas took Mark.
Mark later became Peter’s associate (“my son,” I Peter 5:13; cf. Acts 12:12-13).
Though Mark deserted Paul on the first missionary journey (Acts 15:37-39), Paul here commends him (cf. Phile. 24) as a “fellow laborer,” as he did later in II Timothy. Now Paul commends Mark because he got on track again. His commendation of Mark is without qualification, “he is useful to me for the ministry,” (II Tim. 4:11).
“(about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him)”
“Received instructions” indicate that Mark was under a cloud. He had a poor beginning. He was a failure at the beginning but he made a comeback.
Paul not only reconciled with Mark but he charges the Colossian church to “welcome him.” “Don’t hold it against him.” Paul truly forgave Mark for deserting him on the field.
The word for “welcome” means hospitable reception (Matthew 10:14; John 4:45). Paul’s recommendation of Mark is unreserved. He says in effect, “Welcome him with open arms.”
Mark’s dropout caused people to look upon him with suspicion. Therefore, Paul instructs the church at Colosse to welcome him. He had been discharged as useless for the work of Christ.
Initial failure does not mean ultimate failure.
There is no such thing in biblical Christianity as the “bird with the broken pinion will never fly so high again.” No failure is fatal as long as we are alive upon the earth. If we are alive, God has a purpose for us. It is possible to make good again.
Maybe you have played the coward at some point in your life. It is possible to make good again. Your first attempt at Christian work may have been a failure. Your first try at leading a small group may have not been the right match. You may have been a round peg in a square hole. Just because you failed the first time does not mean that you will always fail.