Seeing the Future - Getting a Glimpse of Your Teen as an Adult

By Rick Wilcox

Acts 13:1–13 (ESV)
13 Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
Barnabas and Saul on Cyprus
4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. 5 When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John to assist them. 6 When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. 7 He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. 9 But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him 10 and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? 11 And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand. 12 Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord.

Paul and Barnabas at Antioch in Pisidia 
13 Now Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. And John left them and returned to Jerusalem,

This week, we continue our study of the book of Acts and come to the first missionary journey of Paul. As we learned in previous studies, for about 15 years since the ascension of Jesus, the church was steadily fulfilling its orders to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. Now it’s on to the end of the earth.

The church in Antioch had established itself has a second hub location after Jerusalem and its leadership was as diverse as it was devout. Beyond Paul and Barnabas, its leaders included men from Africa and a converted aristocratic childhood friend of Herod. The Holy Spirit spoke to these men during their practice of worship and fasting, directing them to send Barnabas and Saul out to spread the gospel. The church obeyed, and off they sailed to the isle of Cyprus, Barnabas’ place of origin. From there they went on to the region around Paul’s home in Tarsus, eventually traveling through Galatia.

The men ran into opposition from the start. None of it was too much for the Lord to handle, but that wasn’t true of a young man named John Mark who had come along on the mission. We know a little about him from other Bible verses, including the fact that he was Barnabas’ cousin. Luke writes in Acts that John Mark left them early in the trip to return to his mother’s spacious home in Jerusalem. Later in Acts we will learn this was a sharp point of contention between Paul and Barnabas, eventually causing the two to split up. Barnabas wanted to give the young man another chance, but Paul wasn’t having it.

Anyone who has raised teenagers will understand this story. All these years later, we know John Mark turned out to be an exceptional man. He was raised in a godly home, was a follower of Jesus from a young age, was mentored by pillars of the Christian church, and eventually became a gospel writer under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Tradition tells us he was martyred for his unflinching testimony. At this juncture however, we have a work in progress.

  1. Why do you think he abandoned the mission?
  2. In our passage, we see the church commissioning Paul and Barnabas, but not John Mark. Could this have been a factor?
  3. Paul and Barnabas were by every indication, a strong pair who successfully managed many difficulties. Why couldn’t they find unity in this matter?
  4. How do you think John Mark felt when he got home?
  5. Years later, Paul seems to have reconciled with John Mark and once again took him into his trust. How do you think Paul thought about the situation then?
  6. What lessons can we draw from all of this as we consider our roles as parents of teens?
  7. In many ways, parents are taking teens on a mission that is not their own. How do we handle it when they want to bail on us?
  8. What kind of division can this cause in a marriage?

Talk to Your Teen
The COVID-19 situation is causing great stress on family dynamics. The plan parents thought they were following has been disrupted by opposition on many fronts. Teens may feel the stress more acutely and may at times be outright rebellious. Parents who are already strained and mentally exhausted may find it hard to be patient with teens who can’t seem to get on board and do what needs to be done. Intentional family conversation is essential, both to each other and to God. During the quarantine, use mealtimes as family meetings.

Tell your teens the story of John Mark in your own words and ask them if they can relate to what he might have been feeling when he abandoned the mission to return home.  What advice would they have for him?  What advice would they have for Paul and Barnabas?

Ask your teens:
  • How do we better understand God’s perspective in this situation?
  • What can we do?
  • What challenges you the most?
  • Who can you help? How?
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