A WORTHY MENTOR Acts 11: 19-26

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.

SOMEONE WHO DOES WHAT?…Acts 4: 36-37 and Chapter 9

His given name was Joseph.  From the family of Levi, who were priest’s assistants in Jerusalem’s Temple.  Israel was defeated and exiled by 586BC.  God’s people then worshipped in local synagogues wherever they lived.  Joseph was from the island of Cyprus, with a mixed population of Jews and Gentiles.  He was special to the Apostles.  So much so that they gave him the nickname of Barnabas, ‘the Son of Encouragement’!

Turning to Acts chapter 9, we find Barnabas in a bit of a fix.  Word has gotten around that some ferocious persecutor of the church has become one of them. Who?  Saul?  Are you kidding?  Yes, Saul himself says that on the road to Damascus, He has encountered the living Jesus, whom he now calls his Lord!  Oy Vey?   The enemy?  Now, a brother?  Maybe the arch con?  Didn’t Jesus warn us about wolves in sheep’s clothing(Matthew 7:15)?

Fear and trembling spread like wildfire.  ‘Lord, deliver us from the likes of Saul of Tarsus’!  Who could blame these early Christians?  I can’t.  The Lord heard their cries, and He answered them by bringing Saul to faith in Jesus.  But, no one wants to take a chance on him.  No one…except Barnabas!

The Bible says that Barnabas brought him to the Apostles, telling them all about Saul’s meeting the risen Jesus on that Damascus road .  Barnabas tells them that Saul, the persecutor, is now Saul, the preacher.  Here’s where I notice something special about Barnabas.  How did he know about what happened to Saul?  Not by e-mail, text message or tract.  Hardly.  Barnabas knew the whole story from the lips of Saul himself.  So what, you say?

Barnabas heard… because he listened.  He wanted to know all about Saul, so he listened to him.  Paid attention.  All ears.  When someone listens to you, and you know when they are, it can be such an amazing experience.  A level of caring and acceptance rarely felt.  Know what I mean?  What an encouragement when someone bothers to listen to us.  To hear us out.  Tune in to our wave length.  Keeping their ‘big mouths’, well, you-know-what(I’m speaking of myself!).

Want to encourage someone today?  You get the point!  Listen.  Hear their story.  Hold back yours.  That was Barnabas.  God wants more children of encouragement.  Like you…and me?

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, for always listening to us.  We love you and want to listen to you as well.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.