Barnabas the Apostle

Saint Barnabas the Apostle

“Joseph, a Levite born in Cyprus, whom the apostle called Barnabas (which means son of encouragement) sold a field he owned, brought the money, and turned it over to the apostle” (

Acts 4:36-37).

 

This first reference in the New Testament to Barnabas introduces one whose missionary efforts would cause him to be called, like the Twelve, an apostle.  As a Jew of the Dispersion, he had much in common with Paul.  When Paul came to Jerusalem after his conversion, the disciples were afraid to receive him.  It was Barnabas who brought Paul to the apostles, and declared to them how, on the road to Damascus, Paul had seen the Lord, and had preached boldly in the name of Jesus (Acts 9:27).  Later, Barnabas, having settled in Antioch, sent for Paul to join him in leading the Christian Church in that city.

 

Barnabas and Paul were sent by the disciples in Antioch to carry famine relief to the Church in Jerusalem.  Upon their return, the Church in Antioch sent them on their first missionary journey beginning in Cyprus.  At Lystra in Asia Minor, the superstitious people took them to be gods, supposing the eloquent Paul to be Mercury, the messenger of the gods, and Barnabas to be Jupiter, the chief of the gods, a testimony, to the commanding presence of Barnabas.  The association of Barnabas and Paul was broken, after their journey, by a disagreement about Mark, who had left the mission to return to Jerusalem.  After attending the Council of Jerusalem with Barnabas, Paul made a return visit to the Churches he and Barnabas had founded in Asia Minor.  Barnabas and Mark went to Cyprus, where Barnabas is traditionally honored as the founder of the Church.

 

It seems that Barnabas continued his journey for the Gospel, because Paul mentions him several times in his letters to the Galatians, the Corinthians, and the Colossians.  Tradition has it that he was martyred at Salamis in Cyprus.

 

As Christians, we are all called to be evangelists, to spread the work and love of Christ but most of us shy away from this, are uncomfortable even defending our beliefs among people we know.  Can you imagine traveling to a foreign country where people are so far removed from your own culture and knowledge that they actually mistake you for gods?  Not only do you take this journey which in and of itself was hazardous, but you mix with these people and tell them about a God they’ve never even heard of and establish churches?  I think about these saints that I’ve been writing about and I am awed by what they’ve done and humbled by what I have not done.

 

Grant, O God, that we may follow the example of your faithful servant Barnabas, who, seeking not his own renown but the well-being of your Church, gave generously of his life and substance for the relief of the poor and the spread of the Gospel; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen

 

Psalm 112           Isaiah 42:5-12      Acts 11:19-30;13:1-3       Matthew 10:7-16

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