Every name has a story
A right-hand man, a run-away slave, a prisoner, a deserter, a doctor, two unknowns, and a local man all join forces under the leadership of an ex-rabbi to complete the biggest mission ever undertaken on the planet. Can they overcome their individual pasts, their previously held biases, and external advesaries to complete the mission?
It almost sounds like Hollywood’s next attempt at a summer blockbuster. Throw a variety of characters together and then – with some clever plot twists and scripted lucky breaks – it all works out in the end.
However, the list above describes the cast of individuals working on the Apostle Paul’s team when he sent a letter to the believers in Colossae. Oftentimes, we just skim over these “so and so send his greetings” sections, but let’s take a brief look at the assembled team:
I have sent [Tychicus] to you for this very purpose, so that you may know how we are, and so that he may encourage your hearts. He is with Onesimus, a faithful and loved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you about everything here.
Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, greets you, as does Mark, Barnabas’ cousin (concerning whom you have received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him), and so does Jesus who is called Justus. These alone of the circumcision are my co-workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me.
Epaphras, who is one of you, a slave of Christ Jesus, greets you…Luke the loved physician, and Demas greet you.
From other mentionings in the Bible, here’s what we know about these men:
Tychicus – One of Paul’s most trusted workers. He delivered the letters to the churches in Ephesus and Colossae, and likely delievered the letter to Philemon. He was both an encourager and a leader.
Onesimus – He was slave who ran away from his Christian master, Philemon. At some point during his running, he met Paul and became a Christian. After ministering with Paul for a while, Onesimus would return to Philemon in an attempt to reconcile.
Aristarchus – He was a Jewish Christian from Thessalonica. A bold preacher of the gospel, he was a victim of a mob scence against Christianity. At the time of the Colossian letter’s writing, Aristarchus was also in prison with Paul, presumably for the same reason – preaching the gospel.
Mark, Barnabas’ cousin – This is John Mark, who deserted Barnabas and Paul during their first missionary journey. He was also the reason Paul and Barnabas did not take a second missionary journey together. Years later, Mark and Paul have been reconciled and began working together again. At some point even later, John Mark works with the Apostle Peter and writes the gospel of Mark.
Jesus, who is called Justus – This is his only mentioning in the Bible, so nothing further about him is known.
Epaphrus – He was responsible for bringing the gospel to the Colossians. He has preached throughout his home region, including in Laodicea and Hierapolis (both about 15 miles from Colossae). Paul calls him a faithful minister, and he references Epaphrus’ commitment to pray for his people’s maturity and development.
Luke – He was a doctor and an excellent historian. He accompanied Paul on many journeys. He also wrote the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts.
Demas – When the Colossian letter was written, he was ministering with Paul. However, later on Paul says that Demas deserted him, because he “loved this present world”. Nothing else is known about him.
That’s a crazy diverse group of people. However, the longer we’re in God’s family…the more we realize that God must like crazy diverse, because that’s what we find. People with backgrounds and skills sets you never would have placed together are suddenly living life for Jesus – together. They minister together, and it’s incredible both watch and participate in.
So if Paul’s team had such an assorted background, then you won’t be disqualified by your past. I’m certain that God can work with whatever you’ve been through.