... So it wasn't long until Paul convinced Barnabas that they needed to leave Antioch to spread the good news to the Gentiles elsewhere. Since Barnabas was originally from the nearby island of Cyprus, he suggested there. In his mind, Paul had already exhausted his home region of Cilicia, just to the northeast.
To help them on their journey, Barnabas suggested his cousin, John Mark, whose family were some of the first believers in Jerusalem. Indeed, Mark's household had provided the room where Jesus had eaten his last meal with Peter and the other disciples. And it was where the leaders in Jerusalem still met together in assembly, among several other house fellowships in Jerusalem. When Paul and Barnabas had collected enough supplies and had secured a ship, they left for Cyprus.
They saw almost immediate success among the Jews of the island. It helped immensely that Barnabas was so well known and liked among the Jews there. Barnabas and Paul--or Saul, as he was known in those days--were quite different people in many respects. In some ways they were virtual opposites. Paul was outspoken and aggressive, at times almost offensive. Barnabas was quiet, reserved, and assuring. Paul would tell you what you needed to do and what needed to be done. Barnabas was a good listener and was conciliatory. Sometimes it was hard even to know what he thought on an issue.
The confidence of the Jews of Cyprus in Barnabas an his family was so great that virtually the whole island believed, from Salamis in the east to Paphos in the west...
The success of the gospel among Gentiles, indeed, among Roman officials, not only confirmed Paul's sense of calling to non-Jews. It increased his drive to spread the good news to the whole world. If Paul had been driven before, he was now an unstoppable force. Although they had initially planned to return straight to Antioch, Paul now insisted they sail north to Pamphylia in Asia Minor. Paul had not gone any further west than the Cilician gates when he had preached in the region before. He saw this moment as a God-given opportunity to expand the good news to Pamphylia and then to Pisidia in the north.
John Mark was not pleased at all. He had been more than happy to go to Cypress with Barnabas leading the mission. After all, his distant relatives lived there. And he was enthused about spreading the gospel. He had actually met Jesus that fateful week before his crucifixion and had been enamored with the possibility that this might be the Christ.
Jesus had left an indelible impression on him. Just after Jesus was taken from the Garden of Gethsemane, a couple of the disciples came frantically to Mark's house, which was not far from a small prison where the high priest kept those arrested. Mark had run out to see what was happening, wearing only a linen shirt on. Astounded that the messiah could be arrested, he met up with them, coming up the long stairs on the south side of the temple, in the old city of David. When the guards saw him acting suspiciously, they reached for his shirt, and he only escaped by fleeing naked into the darkness.
But Mark was still somewhat unsure about what Paul was doing with the Gentiles. He was okay with them converting to Judaism. He was okay with the God-fearers in the synagogue. But he had serious questions about how agressively Paul was pursuing the Gentiles and proclaiming that the faithful death of Jesus could apply to them with only a baptism in water to show for it.
And Barnabas seemed less and less in charge of the mission. Sometimes it irritated Mark that Barnabas let Paul do so much of the talking. And Barnabas tended to go along with whatever Paul suggested, usually without asking some of the questions Mark thought should be offered.
And Paul was a hard task master. Mark was responsible for the bulk of their stuff and was at Paul's beck and call. Paul could sense Mark's resentment for the work, which made him push even harder. The long and short of it is that when they arrived on the shores of Asia Minor at Attalia, Mark took one look at the immense mountains to the north and grabbed a ship headed back east toward Antioch...