Summary: For Mother’s Day this looks at Mary the mother of John Mark.
Who Was John Mark’s Mother?
It is just a fleeting reference, it doesn’t provide a lot of details and we aren’t really told very much about her, but never being afraid to venture into the land of speculation in the cause of a good message we shall venture forth looking at the first mother mentioned in the early church.
We don’t know a lot about this woman, she had a very common name and so she is identified by who her son was and she is referenced only once in the scriptures at all and that is in Acts 12:12 When he realized this, he went to the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many were gathered for prayer.
Just a little background here, the church is undergoing the first wave of persecution, James, John’s brother, one of the original 12 has been executed and Peter has been arrested, presumably to suffer the same fate.
The church gathers together in a home and begins to pray for Peter’s protection and God intervenes. An angel appears in Peter’s cell opens the doors and leads Peter out of the prison. And then we read this incredible statement Acts 12:11 Peter finally came to his senses. “It’s really true!” he said. “The Lord has sent his angel and saved me from Herod and from what the Jewish leaders had planned to do to me!” I think he probably realized that he wasn’t dreaming, and that is where we came into the story. Peter apparently had an idea where the church was meeting because he makes his way to the house identified as the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark,
We used to joke that as our kids got older we lost our identity and were only known as Stephen’s parents or Deborah’s parents, and so we only know this woman as Mary, John Mark’s mom, and yet her influence is seen throughout the New Testament and the early church.
So, all we really know is that Mary was the mother of John Mark who was one the young preachers used by Paul to minister to the early church and her home was used as a meeting place by the early church. And yet throughout the book of acts we see her son mentioned in the company of Paul, Peter and Barnabas as well he wrote one of the four Gospels, so you gotta figure that this lady did something right.
Tradition tells us that this was the house where Jesus gathered the 12 to share in the Passover celebration that we now refer to as the “Last Supper” and that later it became the ad hoc head quarters for the early church. If that is the case than we have to assume that Mary was a woman of means to have a house large enough for such gatherings.
And if that is indeed the case it would explain an obscure reference that we find only in Marks Gospel. It is discovered in Mark’s account of the arrest of Jesus. Mark 14:51-52 One young man following behind was clothed only in a long linen shirt. When the mob tried to grab him, he slipped out of his shirt and ran away naked. Other translations tell us that he was wearing a linen sheet. So here is the speculation, that when Jesus and his apostles left the home they were meeting in that young John Mark wrapped himself in a sheet and followed them, only to almost be caught by the guards who arrested Jesus, escaping with little more than his life.
If that was the case it would explain how we get the account of Jesus’ prayer and struggle in the garden, because we are told that the apostles were all asleep. So the speculation is that John Mark, probably just a young teen, followed the one who his mother worshipped and hiding in the garden was able to witness and hear Jesus’ struggle.
But it’s Mother’s Day not John Mark day so let’s leave the son and look at his mother.
The person that Mark was and became was shaped by his mother and that isn’t all that surprising considering how much influence our mothers have over us. It was Napoleon who said “Let France have good mothers, and she will have good sons.” And in his poem by the same name William Ross Wallace writes “For the hand that rocks the cradle Is the hand that rules the world.”
And so like most of us, Mark was who Mark was because of his mother Mary. His faith had been formed and shaped by the faith of his mother and on this day when we celebrate Mother’s it would be a good time to look at the character of this particular mother.