In 1966, the Palm Beach Post ran a story on people’s eating habits when they were stressed. In the story, the author coined the now familiar term “comfort food,” which he defined as “food associated with the security of childhood, like mother’s poached egg or famous chicken soup.” There is security that comes from the familiar.
While Paul is known as the apostle to the Gentiles, he always had a heart for his own people (see Rom. 9:3). In today’s reading, Paul sends greetings from three men who “are the only Jews among my co-workers for the kingdom of God” (v. 11). It may have been discouraging for Paul not to have a larger Jewish following. Yet, he declares that these three “have proved a great comfort to me” (v. 11).
Aristarchus had the unique privilege of being in chains with Paul (v. 11). He likely offered to join Paul in prison to be of help to him. Aristarchus would continue with Paul in his later ministry (Acts 19:29) and may have journeyed with him all the way to Rome (Acts 27:2). Acts 15:37–39 records Paul and Barnabas’s famous parting of ways. Mark had abandoned them on their first missionary journey. As they set out on their second trip, Paul did not want to bring Mark along, while Barnabas did. We do not know how, but by the time Paul wrote this letter, they reconciled. Mark would remain a trusted co-worker for the rest of Paul’s life (2 Tim. 4:11). The Colossian church may have heard only about Mark’s abandonment, so Paul gave an extra encouragement for them to “welcome him” (v. 10).
Jesus (who was also called Justus) was a common name in first century Judaism. Not much is known about the person Paul mentions here. He reminds us of the many anonymous Christians who helped to spread the gospel.
Paul confesses that he received a special comfort from key friends and ministry partners: Aristarchus, Mark, and Jesus. It can be easy to get discouraged and run down in ministry. Is there someone in your church who could use some encouragement or comfort this week? We all need community around us to persevere in faithful ministry.