Years ago I determined to preach annually about the early church leader Barnabas. Why Barnabas? What makes him special? Let me count the ways!
He’s born on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus to a Jewish religious family of Levites, Temple assistants. He’s named Joseph, but later the apostles nickname him Barnabas, meaning ‘son of encouragement’. He earns that moniker by being exactly that.
Barnabas becomes a missionary partner with the Apostle Paul. Pretty good company! Paul doesn’t rub shoulders with just anyone. Later these two duke it out over having Barnabas’ nephew Mark go on another mission journey, because on an earlier one Mark deserts them, fleeing home prematurely. Homesick? Couldn’t take the trials and troubles? Who knows? Barnabas wants to give Mark a second chance, but Paul puts his foot down, refusing to risk Mark’s deserting ways once again.
Acts 11:19-26 gives kudos to our man Barnabas. Wouldn’t you love similar words said about you?–‘…for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith’ (Acts 11:24). If only. I’ll take any one of the above!
When the mother church in Jerusalem gets wind of Gentiles becoming believers in Messiah Jesus, they’re flummoxed and incredulous (see, I still use my Thesaurus!). They send Barnabas to check it out. Who better? He gets to the bottom of it, and it’s good news indeed!
What about those toxic rumors of that archenemy, the persecutor, Saul of Tarsus, becoming a believer in the Lord Jesus? Who should they send to smoke out the truth? Who pulls the short straw? When most shake in their sandals fearing Saul, it’s Barnabas who introduces him to the Jerusalem Church head honchos (Acts 9:26-27). Second chances are second nature to Barnabas.
And his faith? Simply contagious. Countless others become followers, not of Barnabas, but of Jesus. Barnabas then grabs hold of Saul, now called Paul, to have him teach those new Gentile believers. He’s a connector. Joins people together without putting his own name up in lights. No grabbing the headlines, or demanding naming rights to that new church in Antioch.
Can you see why I’m drawn to Barnabas? He’s a worthy mentor.
Thank you, Lord, for leaders who are your followers. For your sake. Amen.