Feast of St. Barnabas, Apostle

June 11

The Lord be with you

On June 11, we remember and give thanks to God for St. Barnabas, Apostle. Barnabas was a Jewish Levite who originally hailed from the island of Cyprus. He steps into history in chapter 4 of the book of Acts written by Luke. Originally named Joseph, this godly man sold some of his temporal possessions and laid the proceeds at the feet ot the Twelve. This was to aid the poor in Jerusalem and support the Church’s mission. The apostles gave him the name Barnabas, which means “Son of Encouragement.” We also learn from Acts that Barnabas was cousin to the young John Mark, who would be the author of the second Gospel.

After Paul’s conversion and initial ministry in Damascus, he visited Jerusalem but found the Church, as a whole, leery of this former persecutor. Barnabas, however, took Paul under his wing and introduced him to the apostles. He told them to story of what had happened to their erstwhile opponent.

When word reached the apostles that something was stirring in Antioch, where Gentiles were beginning to call on the name of Jesus, they dispatched Barnabas to investigate. Barnabas was overjoyed at the Spirit’s work. He immediately headed to Tarsus to fetch Paul and bring him into the work. There they labored in the teaching, and their work was greatly prospered. Worshiping together in Antioch, the Spirit foretold a famine to afflict Judea. The two were sent to bring relief to the Jerusalem Church. Later, the Spirit instructed that Barnabas and Saul be set aside for the work to which He had called them. They were then dispatched on the first great missionary journey, spreading the saving name of Jesus to Jew and Gentile throughout Asia Minor.

Accompanying them on that journey at first was John Mark, but he did not complete the work and returned home. When the traveling companions contemplated a second journey, Barnabas was willing to give John Mark a second chance. Paul, at the time, thought it inadvisable. The two ended up sharply contending and dividing. Barnabas and Mark headed to Cyprus while Paul and Silas traveled first to Asia Minor and then into Europe.

From 1 Corinthians 9:6, it is apparent that Barnabas followed the same pattern as Paul in not making use of his right as a minister of the Gospel to receive pay. He was clearly known to the Church there, and he is also mentioned in Galatians 2:13. He is not mentioned again in the pages of the New Testament. A document survives from the Early Church known as The Epistle of Barnabas. It is possible that the Barnabas remembered today wrote it, but many scholars doubt it. At any rate, it comes from either the late first century or early second century. Tradition suggests that Barnabas died a martyr’s death in Cyprus, continuing to preach the Good News to his native land, being stoned to death after first being tortured.

Collect of the Day: Almighty God, Your faithful servant Barnabas sought not his own renown but gave generously of his life and substance for the encouragement of the apostles and their ministry. Grant that we may follow his example in lives given to charity and the proclamation of the Gospel; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

[A slightly modified devotion from “Celebrating the Saints” by William Weedon and published by Concordia Publishing Houses]

Blessings in Christ