When Saul left Jerusalem, he was headed to Damascus to spread to that city his vicious attack on Jesus’ disciples. But before he ever reached that city, he saw and turned to the resurrected Lord. The furious persecutor became a faithful disciple. And not only that, he began to preach the faith that he once destroyed. Learning of a plot on his life, he escaped Damascus and returned to Jerusalem. But, with the memory of his persecution fresh on their minds, the disciples doubted his conversion and were afraid of him.
In stepped Barnabas. He personally vouched for Saul, recounting his conversion and subsequent preaching ventures. Barnabas opened a door of opportunity for Saul allowing God to shower immeasurable blessings upon the world through him – blessings that we continue to enjoy every time we read from his epistles.
Years later, the Holy Spirit called for Barnabas and Saul to be sent out from Antioch to preach. John Mark, who enlisted as an assistant, abruptly left before the work ended and returned to Jerusalem. His reason is not given, but sometime later, when Paul and Barnabas prepare to return to those areas where they had preached, his previous actions create a problem. Barnabas proposes that they take John Mark with them – Paul is opposed. The disagreement is so sharp between them that Paul and Barnabas go their separate ways.
Again, Barnabas steps in. Perhaps he understands the reason for the abrupt departure, or perhaps he is willing to give a second chance to a young disciple who made a mistake. Whatever it is, Barnabas takes Mark and they go to the island of Cyprus. His trust is rewarded when, years later, Paul himself recognizes the value of this young disciple and calls for Timothy to bring Mark with him because “he is very useful to me for ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11).
Does someone you know need a Barnabas? Perhaps someone who is misunderstood, or someone who needs a second chance? Maybe it is someone who simply needs to hear an encouraging word. Many great works can be done in the name of Christ, but it is difficult to find a work more important than the one we see in Barnabas. Not everyone can travel to distant destinations to preach, but everyone can encourage and support those who love the Lord.
Can you be someone’s Barnabas today?