SIMPLE TRUTH: The doctor, the son and the turncoat
By Charles Christmas
If you knew that you were on your death bed, who would you want near? What could they do for you? What would you tell them?
The Apostle Paul believed that his death was near. In an urgent letter to Timothy, he said, “The good fight is about over, the end of the race is near and I desire to have three persons near me at this time. I am alone except for Dr. Luke. Two others I want now. Timothy, come as quickly as you can; and get John Mark and bring him.” He wanted the doctor, his son and the turncoat.
Paul believed in instant divine healing. He had personally experienced it and had been the instrument for it. But he also knew what it was to leave his fellow laborer, Trophimus, sick in Troas. He also recommended a “little wine” as a medical remedy to Timothy for his “often infirmities.” And he called Luke, “the beloved physician.” Who would not want a beloved physician near when your hold on life might be slipping? This is a salute to the entire worldwide medical family, their pursuits and potential.
Paul referred to Timothy as “my dear son.” He wrote to the Philippian Church: “There is no one like Timothy. Like a son with a father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. No one will care like Timothy.” Who would not want a son like that nearby?
Also, Paul desired to have John Mark as a companion prior to death. Who is he? He is the young man who accompanied Barnabas and Paul on their first missionary journey for a short distance but forsook them and returned home. When Paul and Barnabas were planning their second mission, Barnabas suggested they give John Mark a second chance to prove himself. Paul reacted, “Absolutely not! He failed once! That’s it!” So Barnabas took Mark in a different mission direction and Paul took the more “trusted” Silas. But now, after all of these intervening years, Paul had turned one hundred and eighty degrees in his opinion of John Mark: from “he is worthless” to “he is helpful to me in my ministry.” Yes, the encouragement and opportunity afforded by Barnabas to Mark had paid great dividends: from turncoat to faithful and trusted worker. It is a dying affirmation and confession from the great apostle of what God can do in the life of a “failure,” not only more than we can ask or imagine, but even more than the great Apostle Paul could have imagined.
Are there unrevealed reasons the apostle wanted these three men near in the end time of his life? I do not have scripture for it, but I personally think so. I think Paul encouraged John Mark to put into writing all he could discover about the life, ministry, miracles, teachings and actions of Jesus Christ up through the resurrection appearances. He did so and it became the Gospel of Mark. Paul knew that Luke not only was a beloved physician, but also had the gift of an accurate historian. Being the only one left who had been a companion of Paul on his missionary journeys, he asked Luke to write a two-volume work. The first would cover the birth of Jesus through his ascension. The second volume would begin with the last resurrection appearance, the Great Commission and the ascension of Jesus, continue through the early churches history and end with Paul imprisoned in Rome preaching the Gospel “unhindered.” Such became the Gospel of Luke and the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. And then I believe Paul commissioned his “beloved and trusted son Timothy” with great responsibility to carry on his pastoral oversight toward the churches for doctrine and practice.
Paul had only known Jesus Christ as the Risen Lord. But he desired that the world could read and hear about Jesus Christ from the manger until he became head of the Church, and until he comes again: the entire and full Gospel. On his deathbed, I believe God set all of this in motion through “a doctor, a son and a turncoat:” unbelievable how God works! What can he do through you and me with what little time we have left?
—Charles Christmas is a religion columnist for The Clanton Advertiser. His column appears each Thursday.