Good ole Barnabas. Not much is said about him in Scripture. From the scant evidence we have, he came from Cyprus and played an important role in helping spread the story of Jesus. Early in the account of the young Church in action, he made a generous contribution, and seemed to be on good terms with the Apostles. Evidently he wasn’t a spectacular super-star, but he’d won the confidence and respect of the young Church.
““Joseph, a Levite, born in Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (son of encouragement), sold a field he owned, brought the money, and turned it over to the apostles.” (Acts 4:36f).
Surely there’s something to be said for steady, dependable, unpretentious service! He barely escapes anonymity, but look at what resulted from his unselfish service! How’d you like to have that on your resume? Somehow the title “son of encouragement” became associated with him, and that was an important, well-deserved description of Banabas’ character. (I started to call him ‘Barney’ and don’t really think he’d have minded at all!)
After the conversion of Saul, the disciples at Jerusalem were obviously very wary of him. And rightly so. They were not willing to accept Saul, given his record as a witness/participant in the stoning of Stephen. His angry efforts to capture and kill Christians were very well known, and there had not been enough time or evidence to confirm to their satisfaction that the incident on the road to Damascus had really occurred. For all they knew, this could have been a ruse. A trap. I guarantee you I woldn’t have invited him to lead a small group study at my house!
It was Barnabas who intervened. He put his own reputation and standing on the line. Perhaps his own life! He was able to convince the Apostles of the genuineness of Saul’s conversion. It was Barnabas who accompanied Saul to Antioch on a mission for the Apostles. Or, perhaps, we should read it the other way: It was Saul who tagged along with Barnabas!
For some reason, it was in Antioch at about that time when the name “Christian” was first applied to the followers of Jesus.
If you stop and think about things like this for even a moment, what do you suppose may have become of Saul (his name was changed later) if Barnabas had not taken a chance on him? Surely, an omnipotent God could have cleared the way for Saul, but the point of this entire saga (I believe) is that He used Barnabas!
It was only because of Barnabas’ intervention on behalf of Saul that he gained an entrance to the confidence of the Church. Afterward, the first “evangelistic team” was formed. Barnabas was the “Senior” pastor. At first, he was the ranking member of the team. It was only because Barnabas displayed confidence in Saul that the great evangelist/theolgian was even considered for the position.
As I’ve pondered this entire episode, several things seem to be quite clear: One is that men of God are also ordinary men. They have their faults and weaknesses. They don’t always make the right decisions. In many cases it is the quiet, unassuming guy like Barnabas who has foresight others may lack. He saw the good and the potential in Saul which the Apostles (Jesus’ eleven closest friends, remember) missed. He took a chance on Saul that you and I probably would have protested loudly! The Church didn’t see the worth or value of Saul. But Barnabas did!
In the course of events, the Church commissioned a team composed primarily of Barnabas and an unproven, untested newcomer (Saul, who later became Paul.).
Among the members of that first missionary team was a young man we’ve come to know as John Mark. From scant records, we’ve come to believe Mark was Barnabas’ cousin, so it was probably at Barnabas’ invitation that Mark was included in the venture. The journey was successful, but not on account of any contribution Mark made. He “blew” his first assignment. The mission had barely gotten under way when Mark said “I’m outta here!” He packed his bags and went home.
As the story unfolds, we learn that a second journey was planned. Mark had changed his mind and decided he might like to give it a second try.
Paul said: “No.” His first and final answer. He would not bend. Barnabas, who had given Saul his blessing and an entre to Christian fellowship, felt the young man should be given a second chance. We don’t know how heated the exchange became, but one of the results was that the Barnabas~Saul Evangelistic Association disbanded. They never worked together again. There was no discussion and no explanation of how things happened. Saul, who himself had benefitted from Barnabas kindness drew a hard line against an immature “rookie.” Barnabas did the same thing for his young cousin that he’d done for Saul.
Good ole Barnabas! Everyone needs a friend like that at some point or another. While I’m sure Mark had done some private introspection and maturing between the missionary adventures, it was the intervention of Barnabas which gave him his second chance. That has to be one of the keys to Mark’s comeback.
Perhaps, just perhaps: If you’ve “messed up” there is a Barnabas who has been quietly observing in the wings, looking for his opportunity to enter your life and help you get re-established.
Or, perhaps you can imagine another scenario: Do you know some young disciple who began a journey of faith, became weary or discouraged, and perhaps faltered?
You may never be famous for it, but what if you took that as your assignment?
God’s son and servant, your friend and fellow student ~donkimrey
For further thought, consider these references: (2 Tim 4:11; see also Col 4:10 and Phil 24). It seems that John Mark also became a valuable associate of Simon Peter and under the great fisherman’s influence, wrote the gospel record which bears his name. Anytime you think failure is final and fatal, consider Mark’s comeback. You and I should be able at some point to understand that Scripture is NOT an account of any man’s great achievements or contributions. It is about the Grace of God! ~don)