His given name was Joseph. From the family of Levi, who were priest’s assistants in Jerusalem’s Temple. Israel was defeated and exiled by 586BC. God’s people then worshipped in local synagogues wherever they lived. Joseph was from the island of Cyprus, with a mixed population of Jews and Gentiles. He was special to the Apostles. So much so that they gave him the nickname of Barnabas, ‘the Son of Encouragement’!
Turning to Acts chapter 9, we find Barnabas in a bit of a fix. Word has gotten around that some ferocious persecutor of the church has become one of them. Who? Saul? Are you kidding? Yes, Saul himself says that on the road to Damascus, He has encountered the living Jesus, whom he now calls his Lord! Oy Vey? The enemy? Now, a brother? Maybe the arch con? Didn’t Jesus warn us about wolves in sheep’s clothing(Matthew 7:15)?
Fear and trembling spread like wildfire. ‘Lord, deliver us from the likes of Saul of Tarsus’! Who could blame these early Christians? I can’t. The Lord heard their cries, and He answered them by bringing Saul to faith in Jesus. But, no one wants to take a chance on him. No one…except Barnabas!
The Bible says that Barnabas brought him to the Apostles, telling them all about Saul’s meeting the risen Jesus on that Damascus road . Barnabas tells them that Saul, the persecutor, is now Saul, the preacher. Here’s where I notice something special about Barnabas. How did he know about what happened to Saul? Not by e-mail, text message or tract. Hardly. Barnabas knew the whole story from the lips of Saul himself. So what, you say?
Barnabas heard… because he listened. He wanted to know all about Saul, so he listened to him. Paid attention. All ears. When someone listens to you, and you know when they are, it can be such an amazing experience. A level of caring and acceptance rarely felt. Know what I mean? What an encouragement when someone bothers to listen to us. To hear us out. Tune in to our wave length. Keeping their ‘big mouths’, well, you-know-what(I’m speaking of myself!).
Want to encourage someone today? You get the point! Listen. Hear their story. Hold back yours. That was Barnabas. God wants more children of encouragement. Like you…and me?
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for always listening to us. We love you and want to listen to you as well. In Jesus’ name. Amen.