Demas, Mark and Failure
By Rev Tan Eng Boo
For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. (2 Tim. 4:10-11)
Trekking through the Judean wilderness in Israel, a dry and hot desert land, may not seem too difficult a task for trekkers like us who only trek for a short distance. But for those who have to travel through it daily, it is not a pleasant journey. It requires endurance. The author of the book of Hebrews urges us to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12: 1). And in order to do that, we will have to “look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2), a timely reminder as we enter 2023.
There are two persons in the Bible who, needed the grace of God to finish well: Demas and Mark. Like them, we too need God’s grace to finish well. Demas and Mark are two contrasting examples of failure. One provides us a word of warning, the other a word of hope. As people who stumble in many ways (“For we all stumble in many ways” Jam. 3:2a), we see both types of failure manifested in our own Christian lives. All of us fail. But if we commitour failures to Christ, there is no failure that cannot be redeemed through the cross. There is no failure which Christ cannot restore to useful service.
I want to encourage us to move on faithfully in 2023 in our Christian life and service for Jesus. But let us first take a look at God’s lesson for usthrough the examples of Demas and Mark.
The example of Demas
What happened to Demas? We don’t know but we have a clue from the apostle Paul in his prison epistle before his Roman execution. “For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica” (2 Tim. 4:10). The New Living Translation puts it this way, Demas “loves the things of this life.” Whatever lured Demas away, we see it was a love affair with the world. Demas’ example is a warning to us. Some years earlier, Paul said Demas was a “fellow worker” in Colossae. “Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas” (Col 4:14). “Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers” (Philemon 1:23, 24).
Demas doesn’t seem to have ended well. Having once fought together with Paul, he now goes after the world. The apostle Peter gave a solemn warning: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). But we will have to resist the devil (1 Pet. 5:9). The devil is crafty and he seduces especially those who are in the Lord’s work. Demas started well but fell along the way to the devil’s deception, but we must “fight the good fight of the faith” (1 Tim. 6:12a).
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 Jn. 2:15-17)
“Was there a time you were passionate for God, characterised by extravagant devotion and love for the Saviour? Demas was like that once too. What about now? Have you fallen in love with this present world? Sadly, Christians are largely unaware of the peril. Because we've ignored verses such as 1 John 2:15-17, we've become completely desensitised to the clear and present danger of worldliness” (Christianity.Com by C. J. Mahaney). Worldliness, then, is a love for this fallen world. It is loving the values and pursuits of the world that stand in opposition to God.
The example of Mark
Mark, on the other hand, is an encouragement to us. He had a weak start. Remember how he left Paul at the start of the first missionary journey? “Now Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. And John (Mark) left them and returned to Jerusalem” (Acts 13:13). Paul and Barnabas were on this journey when Mark decided to leave them. Why? We don’t know. Was it because the journey was tough going? This is surely different from our modern-day mission trips. Paul was upset with the departure of Mark. When Barnabas wanted to bring Mark along on the second missionary journey, Paul disapproved it (Acts 15:37-40). But later at the end of Paul’s ministry, Mark became “useful” to Paul. “Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry” (2 Tim. 4:11).
Mark ended well. At some point he re-joined the ministry and became useful again in the Lord’s work. He became the author of the Book of Mark. And, according to church history , he contributed to the planting of a church in Alexandria and was also martyred for the sake of the Lord.
Yes my brethren, all of us fail and fumble. But we have to get up and move on in the task which the Lord has assigned us. Last year, 2022, may have been wrought with moments of failure but Jesus chooses and uses failures.
“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it on my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead” (Phil. 3:13).
Let us resolve to pursue Jesus and watch Him make us useful again.
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Eph. 3:20-21)