Posted under The Rectory Bulletin | Early Church
Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, welcome him), and Jesus who is called Justus. These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me. (Colossians 4:10-11)
These greetings bear witness to the fact that between the churches spread around the Roman Empire there existed networks of friendships and family ties. Given the culture of the day, it is likely that Christians would have given hospitality to travellers and it is likely that some of those who are named here would have stayed in the homes some of the members of the church in Colossae. People often travelled to trade, and soldiers were often on the move, which meant that around the Mediterranean there was a good network of roads.
We first meet Aristarchus - Paul’s “fellow prisoner” - in Ephesus where he is dragged about by a crowd angered by Paul’s preaching (Acts 19:29). He is a native of Thessalonica stayed with Paul to the end, accompanying Paul on his fateful trip to Rome and surviving a shipwreck on the way (Acts 27:2).
“Mark” is almost certainly the author of the second Gospel, and accompanied Paul on his first missionary journey. He withdrew after that journey - causing a rift between Paul and Mark’s cousin Barnabas - but it clear that the two were later reconciled. He knew Peter well and tradition has it that Mark’s Gospel is a compilation of Peter’s preaching. Mark’s mother, Mary, was an early Christian too and when Peter was rescued from Prison in Acts 12:6, it was to her house he headed (only to be left knocking on the door as an excited servant girl ran off to tell the disbelieving disciples)!
Of Jesus “who is called Justus” we unfortunately know nothing, except that he was, along with Mark and Aristarchus, Jewish.
From this brief greeting we get a real impression of the tight-knit community which formed the earliest church. Bonds of friendship and family ties were strong, which gave the early church its resilience. Church is no spectator sport. It is a family affair, which reaches into eternity.