Friday, June 11, 2010

The Feast of St. Barnabas: A Devotional Commentary

Isaiah 42:5-12 Thus says God Yahweh, he who created the heavens and stretched them out, he who spread out the earth and that which comes out of it, he who gives breath to its people and spirit to those who walk in it. “I, Yahweh, have called you in righteousness, and will hold your hand, and will keep you, and make you a covenant for the people, as a light for the nations; to open the blind eyes, to bring the prisoners out of the dungeon, and those who sit in darkness out of the prison. I am Yahweh. That is my name. I will not give my glory to another, nor my praise to engraved images. Behold, the former things have happened, and I declare new things. I tell you about them before they come up.” Sing to Yahweh a new song, and his praise from the end of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that is therein, the islands and their inhabitants. Let the wilderness and its cities raise their voices, with the villages that Kedar inhabits. Let the inhabitants of Sela sing. Let them shout from the top of the mountains! Let them give glory to Yahweh, and declare his praise in the islands.

Acts 11:19-30; Acts 13:1-3 Now, those who had been scattered abroad by the oppression that arose in connection with Stephen had traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, and they were only proclaiming the word to Jews. But some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, spoke to the Greeks and preached the Lord Jesus when they arrived in Antioch. The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord. News of these things came to the ears of the Church which was in Jerusalem. So, they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced. He encouraged them all to remain close to the Lord with a resolute heart. Indeed, Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and many people were added to the Lord. Then Barnabas went out to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year, they assembled with the Church and taught many people. The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. Now, in these days, prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, named Agabus, stood up and predicted through the Spirit that a great famine would take place all over the world; and it happened in the days of Claudius. According to their ability, each one of the disciples determined to send relief to the brethren who lived in Judea. This is indeed what they did, sending their gift to the presbyters through the hands of Barnabas and Saul. Now, in the Church that was at Antioch, there were some prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen the foster brother of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they were liturgizing to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, after fasting and praying, they laid their hands on Barnabas and Saul and sent them on their way.

Mark 6:7-13 Calling to himself the Twelve, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He told them to take nothing for their journey, except for a staff: no bread, no wallet, no money in their purse. He also told them to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. He said to them, “Wherever you enter into a house, stay there until you depart from the area. If any place does not welcome you and if people refuse to listen to you, as you walk away, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them. Amen, I can tell you that in the day of judgment, things will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah than for that city!” They went out and preached that people should repent. They also cast out many demons and anointed with oil many people who were sick and healed them.

Barnabas was called to bring light to the nations. He was sent to bring the Light--Jesus Christ to the nations. Barnabas was sent to open the eyes of those blinded to their own sin and free sinners from the Devil's dungeon. Barnabas was full of the Holy Spirit so just as the Holy Spirit cannot stop talking about Jesus, Barnabas could not stop talking about Jesus. Along with Paul, he became an Apostle to the Gentiles. Barnabas called all people to repentance. Barnabas told everyone that they were sinners and in need of a Savior. Barnabas brought them Jesus. Barnabas baptized them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Because Barnabas preached Christ-crucified and not the works of man, the Jews were angry. All religions, including Judaism teach that a person is saved by his own works. The Jews had this in common with the pagans. Paganism is less offensive because it is a tit for tat system just as Judaism and Islam and all the other religions are. But Jesus is offensive. Jesus hanging dead on a cross says everyone fails and everyone's good works are nothing but menstrual rags. Your good works are nothing but dung. Jesus did it all.

Because Barnabas preached Jesus they hated Barnabas just as they hated Jesus. They would not have hated Barnabas if he came preaching life principles. Barnabas spoke of Jesus. They had not real arguments against what Barnabas was saying. So because Barnabas spoke of Jesus they dragged him out of building in which he was preaching the Gospel. They beat and tortured Barnabas. They stoned Barnabas to death. They burned his bones after he was dead. All this because Barnabas brought Jesus.

So it is today. Jesus is still offensive, especially in the church. When you insist that ministers bring you Jesus they call you Satanic and slander you and gossip about you. In some places they might even kill you. But it's all worth it. Because you get Jesus. You receive the blessings of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. You are set free from the dark, bondage of your own good works. Your sins are forgiven. You can rest. All this because you have Jesus.

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