11 June 2020
Reflection St Barnabas,
'a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.' Acts 11:24
Today the church celebrates the feast day of St Barnabas.
Barnabas was one of the very earliest followers of Jesus and a leader of the early church.
His story is told in the Acts of the Apostles and he is also mentioned in some of Paul's letters.
We first hear of Barnabas in the book of Acts;
he was a Levite from Cyprus living in Jerusalem
and was one of the first followers to sell land he owned
and donate the proceeds to the church to be used to support the poor.
Every group needs an 'encourager' because we all need encouragement at some time or another.
Barnabas was such a person, in fact his name was Joseph,
but he was such an encourager that he earned the nickname 'Son of Encouragement'
and was given his new name of Barnabas by those who knew him well.
His new name certainly fits what we know of his character and actions.
Barnabas was drawn to people he could encourage,
he was a great help to those around him; and brought many to faith.
When Paul came to Jerusalem after his conversion,
most of the Christians there, understandably, wanted nothing to do with him
for they thought the story was a trick to capture more Christians.
But Barnabas, guided by God, was willing to take a calculated risk
and convinced the others that their former enemy was now a fervent believer in Jesus.
We can only imagine what would have happened to Paul
if Barnabas had not been willing to obey God's call.
Would we be ready to go out on a limb for what we believe in?
Later, Paul and Barnabas travelled far and wide,
sharing the good news of God's love in Jesus.
It was Barnabas who encouraged a young man called Mark
to go with him and Paul to Antioch.
This travelling ministry was tough and dangerous;
they literally were risking their lives and part way, Mark turned back.
When Paul and Barnabas were about to set out again,
Barnabas suggested taking Mark along again.
Paul was against it, saying that Mark was not dependable
but Barnabas wanted to give Mark a second chance,
and so he and Mark went off on one journey,
while Paul took Silas and went on another.
Apparently Mark responded well to the trust given him by Barnabas,
the "son of encouragement," since we find that Paul recognises the change in Mark
and later speaks of him as a valuable assistant.
Are we willing to invest time in people who others reject,
to see the good in them, to encourage them and bring out the best in them?
Barnabas, who became one of the leaders of the Church,
was asked to help in the growth of a new congregation in Antioch.
He didn't arrive thinking he'd whip them into shape,
instead we read,
'he came and saw the grace of God,
he rejoiced and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion.' Acts 11:23
Barnabas called Paul over to help in this work at Antioch
and both he and Paul grew in their faith and ministry and the Church grew too.
A great many people became believers and it was here at Antioch
that the followers of Jesus were first called 'Christians'.
We can learn much from the life of Barnabas.
He was generous, putting others first,
especially in providing encouragement and counsel
and invested his intellect and energy to bring relief to others who were afflicted.
For Barnabas, the ultimate goal was bringing as many unsaved as possible to faith
in the Son and he ministered effectively in both Jewish and Greco-Roman communities;
today, more than ever, this is important,
the Spirit calls us to minister in diverse, cross-cultural situations
While Barnabas lived in the present,
his heart was planted in the soil of God's eternal kingdom.
He understood that the effective spread of the gospel was centred in prayer.
Barnabas was willing to take prudent risks,
such as when he vouched for Paul's integrity as a genuine disciple of Jesus
and rather than work alone, Barnabas sought the help of others, such as Paul and Mark.
Can we emulate these characteristics?
Born in Cyprus, Barnabas also died there in AD 61
when he was martyred (stoned to death) for his faith.
He stayed faithful and willing to give everything right to the end,
a great man and ambassador for the faith.
Yes, we can learn much from his life.