Last week we talked about Simon Peter, a guy with two names. Another man with two names is John Mark. Unlike Abraham and Sarah who received new identities from God and Peter who got his second name from Jesus, the origin of John Mark’s two names seems to lack divine origin.
Perhaps his parents gave him one name at birth and his other label, a nickname bestowed by friends. Maybe he needed two names to avoid confusion with other guys named John and other dudes called Mark.
Regardless John Mark’s dual name does not seem to have any spiritual significance, but to simply be practical.
Even so, John Mark is a fun name to say.
[Read more about John Mark in “Lessons from the Life of John Mark” and “The Comeback of John Mark.”]
In the book of Genesis, God gives new names to three people.
In doing so, God is effectively saying, I’m giving you a new identity. You may see yourself according to your old name, but I see you differently. I’m giving you a new name and a new future.
Abram becomes Abraham
Sarai becomes Sarah
Jacob becomes Israel
The Amplified Bible tells us the meaning for five of these names:
Abram means “high, exalted father,” whereas Abraham means “father of a multitude” (Genesis 17:5).
The meaning of Sarai is not given, but Sarah means “Princess” (Genesis 17:15).
Jacob means “supplanter” (one who usurps or replaces another), whereas Israel means “contender with God” (Genesis 32:28).
Would you like God to give you a new name? Just ask.
Abraham, the great man of faith, did not always act that way. Once, when fearing for his safety, he lied to king Abimelech, claiming that Sarah was his sister and hiding the fact that they were married.
Assured by Abraham’s lie, Abimelech felt free to take Sarah into his harem. Fortunately, God intervened before anything happened to her, revealing the truth of the situation to Abimelech in a dream. God’s instructions to Abimelech were simple: return Sarah to Abraham and then Abraham would pray for Abimelech.
Abimelech quickly returned Sarah as instructed. He also gave many gifts to Abraham, as well as to Sarah. Then Abraham prayed for Abimelech and everything was made right.
What is interesting is that God never told Abimelech to give gifts to Abraham and Sarah. Abimelech did that on his own; God did not require that.
I wonder how many times we act in the same way, doing things that God didn’t ask us to do and that he didn’t require.
In Genesis 18:10-15 we read the amazing story of Sarah being promised a son in her old age. When she hears this, she laughs — I would to; it seems preposterous (but for an all-powerful God, nothing is impossible). In fact God rhetorically asks Abraham (Sarah’s even older husband) “Is anything too hard for [me]?”
Sarah’s laughter at God’s promise may have been delight, but more probable, it was doubt. Even so, God did as he promised and Isaac was born to Sarah and Abraham within the year.
Despite Sarah’s laughter over what was humanly impossible, God later commends her for having faith, Hebrews 11:11. Although she doubted, she apparently had enough belief so that God would later esteem her for her faith.
We may not have immense faith, but a little faith, even with some doubt sprinkled in, is enough for God.