Trinity 1 2023

St. Barnabas
June 11, 2023 A+D

In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The man we know as Barnabas is named Joseph. He is a native of Cyprus who lived in Jerusalem. He was confirmed in his faith either at Pentecost or shortly thereafter. He may have been part of the larger group of Jesus’ disciples and one of the 70 that was sent out in Luke 10. He may even have been in the Upper Room on Easter evening.

We call him Barnabas because that is the nickname the apostles gave him.

Acts 4:36-37 6 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

He is never called Joseph in the Bible again but the name Barnabas shows up 23 times in the book of Acts.

When Paul returned to Jerusalem after his conversion, Barnabas introduced him to the apostles (9:27). It seems as though Paul and Barnabas knew each other. Maybe they were students of the same Rabbi.

The prosperity of the church at Antioch led the apostles to send Barnabas there. The work there was too much for one man so he went to Tarsus to get Paul. They two of them preached and taught in Antioch for a whole year (Acts 11:25, 26). Then they took the contributions of the church at Antioch to Jerusalem for the poor there (11:28–30).

Paul and Barnabas then returned to Antioch bringing Mark with them. They were appointed as missionaries to the Gentiles. In this capacity, they visited Cyprus and some of the principal cities of Asia Minor (Acts 13:14). In Lystra, the people thought that Barnabas was Zeus because he was so good looking. They thought Paul was Hermes because he acted like Barnabas’ messenger. Returning from this first missionary journey to Antioch, they were again sent up to Jerusalem to consult with the church regarding the relation of Gentiles to the church (Acts 15:2: Gal. 2:1). It was then agreed that the Gospel of Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law of Circumcision and that no Christians, Jew of Gentile, had to follow the dietary laws of the Old Testament. Jesus’ death and resurrection has satisfied all the the Law asked of all men. He freely welcomes and desires all to trust in Him and be saved.

The two then went on a second missionary journey taking this Gospel wherever they went, but a dispute arose between them. Mark had deserted them at Pamphylia and Paul didn’t want to take him again. They did not reconcile but went their separate ways. Paul took Silas as his companion and went to Syria and Cilicia. Barnabas took Mark and went to Cyprus (Acts 15:36–41). Barnabas is not again mentioned by Luke.

In Galatians Paul tells us that Barnabas fell into the same error as Peter. Under pressure from the Jews, they told Gentiles they had to stop eating certain foods.

The split is scandalous. It could be that it was Paul’s weakness. He was overzealous against a grievous error that Mark made, but Barnabas’ later error maybe shows a weakness in him. In any case, they did repent and were reconciled. This is made clear by the last passages of St. Paul’s last letter, 2 Timothy. There he asks that Mark be brought to him.

Even apostles sin, let their egos get in the way, or get lazy and need forgiveness. There is forgiveness for them in Christ. His Gospel changes the hearts of men. It is possible to reconcile on this side of glory.

We should be surprised that we are afflicted by conflict over doctrine and practice. We are the Church Militant. That means we are the fighting Church. You will fight until the day you are transferred to glory. You will fight with the devil and temptation, to be sure, but you will also fight for doctrine, for truth, for love and you will fight within the Church. Sometimes you need to be rebuked and called back to the narrow path and other times you need to do the rebuking. Sometimes it goes well and reconciliation is almost instant. Sometimes it takes years.

Jesus didn’t come to give us the sort of camaraderie that Cubs fans have or Jeep drivers have. It isn’t a superficial attraction to the same hobby or brand. It isn’t a club made of friends. Jesus Blood makes us brothers for eternity, real brothers, bound in the unity of the Spirit. There is a lot at stake. We fight because we love one another. What one of us does impacts us all. But fighting and rebuking without sin is hard. Mistakes are made. Pride gets in the way. Feelings get hurt. The only way back is the Gospel, a humility before the Word, a spirit of magnanimity born of faith and gratitude for what has been given to us.

Mark failed but was restored. Barnabas and Paul were reconciled as were Peter and Paul. Here is encouragement for life in the Church. Let us recommit to unity, submit ourselves anew to His Word and promises, and ask in sincerity for healing and joy in our community.

In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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