The church was growing and Barnabas was sent to Antioch to check on them, and “when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.” (Acts 11:23) He then went on to Tarsus, seeking Saul. “And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” (Acts 11:26) The name Christians started out as a nickname, but became a means of identifying those who lived and behaved like Christ. What a great example the early church sets for us through all time. Would that today’s churches would actually behave Christ-like as did the early church.
As usual, with growth comes persecution and in Acts 12 Herod “stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people…but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him. And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison. And behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands. And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me. And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision. When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him. And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews. And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying.” (Acts 12: 1-12)
So we see most clearly that the early Christian church was a praying church. Now we will take a look at the woman Mary, the mother of John Mark, who graciously opened up her home to Jesus’ disciples and early church.
Scripture mentions Mary only one time. During the persecution of Herod Agrippa, this brave woman offered her house to the first group of Christians at Jerusalem as a place to worship God and to pray. Mary was a woman of means, with servants and a house large enough to accommodate the entire Jerusalem congregation. Since Scripture records no husband, Mary was probably a widow.
Times proved difficult for Christ’s followers during those early turbulent years. Herod Agrippa had imprisoned Peter after killing James, the brother of John, with the sword. Yet, in spite of the risks involved, Mary courageously opened her home regularly to Christians.
After an angel miraculously escorted Peter from prison, he went immediately to Mary’s house, a familiar place of hospitality for the disciples. There he found the entire congregation praying for his release.
With the fearless example of a mother like Mary, it really is no wonder that John Mark became a missionary, church leader, and the author of the second Gospel.
II Chronicles 7:14 “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways;
then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”