Hand of the Lord
Have you ever watched a movie or read a book. And been so inspired by one of the characters that you find yourself. Imitating that character, you want to kind of go forth and live as that character. Maybe you saw movie and there's someone whose bold and takes a jump and now you're ready to be bold or or maybe you saw a superhero that stands up and you kind of walk out of the theater or maybe you got your chest out a little bit, you ready to go?
Say imitation, is the highest form of flattery. And this morning, I want to remind us that through the summer. I hope that we could Trail through the New Testament and encounter different Disciples of Jesus. That we might imitate. In particular, I thought we could look at some of the names that we kind of just read over there. They're not the in light name is like Paul or Peter or John or Mary. Or even maybe Thomas. But names that we're less familiar with that, we don't know as well. And yet they to carry the story of Jesus and give us such tremendous lessons from which we can learn and grow. In other words, these disciples help us to become disciples, This morning, we're going to look at Barnabas. Barnabas. And Barnabas' particular superpower is that ability to deal with change and transition. Those are things we're really good at, right change and transition, let's go change and transition. Maybe we are more likely to run from that. Some of us have that we feel strong and good about change and transition but others of us are more happy to avoid change and transition. We maybe even want to take a back seat and watch what's going to happen and then decide whether to act. But we know when we've seen, there are a few that seem to run to change and transition. For most of us, we just want to know how to navigate change and transition. often times because change and transition bring well, they often times bring hard times. They often Come in difficult times. The passage from which we are about to read out of the Acts of the Apostles is such a difficult time. It's a time of persecution. Allow me to set the backdrop for you. You may remember that the early Christians were all Jews. All of them were Jews. And that what they did is they believed as Jews that the Messiah had actually come, that Jesus was the Messiah. Of course, this didn't go over well, with those who were Jews, who did not believe the Messiah had come, it created tension and struggle and we've read about some of that in recent weeks. And that tension would flare up from time to time.
And what we're reading about today comes on the heels of it, finally blowing up.
One of the Jewish Christians. Is caught. And he testifies to what he believes, he's caught by the other Jews. He testifies to what he believes and they Stone him. His name is Steven And Saul who becomes Paul is one who oversees the event. And upon the stoning of Stephen, those early Jewish Christians realize they couldn't stay, where they were that, their neighbors would call them out, and that, their stoning was next. And so, there was an enormous. Spreading. Or a what's called Diaspora , they left Jerusalem and they fled as far away as they could go some of them many hundreds of miles. North And our story will actually pick up in one of those places. But it's that scattering. That begins our story with Barnabas. Can we listen to the word of the Lord? Let us pray that God would open his word to us?
Oh Lord, help us. To have clear Minds.
Help us to have Open Hearts. Create a hunger within us to to know more and to dig deeper. Help us to overcome those words or names. That might Be difficult for us to know, or understand and help us to begin to put the puzzle pieces together. So that we too May grow. May your spirit bless this time and may your word powerfully work within us. In Jesus name. Amen.
Now I'm going to read from The Acts of the Apostles at the 11th chapter and I'm going to begin at the 19th verse. We pick up on the scattering Now, those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over, Stephen traveled, as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch speaking, the word to No One except Jews. But there were some of them men of Cypress in Cyrene, who upon coming to Antioch, spoke to the hellenists, also preaching the Lord Jesus. and the Hand of the Lord was with them and a great number who believed turned to the Lord, the reported this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. when he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad and he exhorted them, all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose. For he was a good man full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul. And when he found him he brought him to Antioch for a whole year, they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch, the disciples were first called Christians.
This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Well there are a whole host of unexpected events that happened just in our reading unexpected events, which of course, bring change and transition. The first. Is what's that beeping? -Fire alarm going off-
Oh, okay. Well, that's ignore that. Maybe Shut the door.
Rewind a little bit. See if the pastor can remember where he was unexpected events, change and transition that bring you up to speed? Unexpected events. The first one is we have to take in mind all these Jewish Christians who suddenly had to pull up stake and leave their homes and flee for fear of persecution.
It's not as though they took their time and carefully packed their boxes. Running for the local U-Haul, carts and horses. No, they fled. They fled what they knew. And they traveled miles upon miles. They were living the unexpected event of what it was to believe that Jesus was Lord and Savior that Jesus was the Messiah.
The first unexpected event is the event they experienced as they were scattered.
Into a whole nother land.
Often times, we wonder if God is with us and change and transition. We're scared. We're worried were uncertain. And yet, we're going to find that God is exactly with them in this change and transition. The other unexpected that which is even greater yet, is that the faith in the Lord Jesus. Suddenly jumps from Jews, only. now, to it calls them the hellenists, but hear in that those who are outside of the Jewish world
Some of them from Cypress and Cyrene. Some of these Jewish Christians, decide to explain to others why they have made this move. Think about it. When you relocate, when you move, if you've ever moved the weather, first question, the neighbors ask you is, what are you from? Right. And followed up behind that right away, is the question, why did you move here?
What led to your move?
Now, and unexpected in between, is the idea that? Because they've just fled because of persecution. You think they'd want to be going around with their head low, they'd want to keep it buried, why they've had to leave maybe of invent a story or tell, only partial truths and not reveal. The struggle that they are under the strain because who wants to resettle only to have persecution flare up again.
But what's unexpected in this is, that's not what they do. Instead they're bold, they're willing to share it. Says that they shared with the other Jews and it says that some from Cypress and Serene even shared with those who are outside of the Jewish faith. And the truly unexpected event that comes from That is that these Hellenists, These Greeks Romans whomever else believe that Jesus is Lord and Savior that he is the messiah. Church. I need an amen. Ah you can do better than that. They believe he's the Messiah. Hey, thank you very much. I won't ask you to do it again. We just got to wake up the the Frozen chosen every now and then, you know,
The gospel has just left Jerusalem. It is just left Judea, it is just left Samaria and it is gone towards the ends of the Earth. And now people outside the Jewish religion, are believing that Jesus is Lord, this is totally unexpected. Now the church in Jerusalem has already had to start dealing with the Rumblings of this reality that the Holy Spirit seems to be breaking out of just the Jewish Community. Peter has come and reported that a another man and his family have come to believe and they're not part of the faith. And Peter's had to explain the whole reason this took place is that the Holy Spirit led him to this household and they wanted to hear. And when Jesus, when Peter told them they all came to believe and want to be baptized. So, Peter has already come back and he's reported to Jerusalem, something strange is happening. And upon the heels of that news comes down, that a whole group of people not just a few, but a large group of people who are not Jews, have come to believe. That Jesus Christ is the Messiah that he's the Savior and Lord of the world.
We could have just read over that. But it is amazing news. It is such an amazing news that the church that is still in Jerusalem decides to send an emissary and ambassador And this is where we pick up our character. Barnabas.
This is where we pick up. Barnabas. Barnabas is the one who's tapped, the one who has chosen to go and travel some 450 miles?
Find out what's going on to check it out. It'll be the same as you after the service. Beginning, your walk up to Marquette Michigan in the upper peninsula.
Or if that's too far north for you, why you start walking to Buffalo and you don't get to cut through Canada?
And buffalo might be more appropriate because Antioch is a rather large city larger than Jerusalem and Antioch is full of trade and commerce. It is one of those pathways through which everything flows. It is here in one of the central sectors of the world of the trade routes that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is breaking out outside of the Jewish Enclave. It is now breaking into the rest of the world and the church in Jerusalem is sending Barnabas to check it out.
Now. What we read, does not tell us why they chose Barnabas why they sent Barnabas of all the people. Why send Barnabas it doesn't tell us but Because we can dig a Little Deeper because we can go back and look at what we already know about Barnabas. We can make some good educated guesses. You see in chapter 11, that's not our first encounter with Barnabas know if we're reading through the book of act, we and kept encountered Barnabas way back in the end of the fourth chapter right around the 36th verse we encountered Barnabas and you know what turns out that's not his name.
His name is Joseph.
Joseph. So if you're looking for one of those Bible quizzes that you see on the screen as you're waiting for worship and it says, what was Barnabas' original name. Now, you know, Joseph okay, not the same. Joseph as Joseph and Mary Joseph But he was given a nickname. Joseph was a nickname that he was given by the apostles themselves. The apostles encounter Joseph and they gave him a nickname. You know what? They gave him the nickname of Barnabas, you know what it means? They called him that because he said they said he is a son of encouragement.
He's the son of encouragement. The Apostle saw in Joseph, the ability to encourage others. Matter fact, they probably were encouraged by him and they called him Barnabas. So, you got a big event happening 400-plus miles to the north. Let's send someone who's encouraging. Let's send someone who's supportive.
There's probably another reason as well. In that 36th, verse of the fourth chapter, we read another little pertinent piece of information turns out Barnabas is not a local of Jerusalem. He didn't grow up there, he grew up in another part of the Mediterranean. He grew up in Cypress. And he relocated to Jerusalem.
He was one of those Jews of the previous diaspora of hundreds of years earlier where the Jews were spread out throughout when they were put in Exile, and they come from all over now.
But now he's back in Jerusalem, but he comes from Cyprus. And why does that matter? Because the two different groups of people that settled start speaking to the people outside the Jews were from Cypress and Serene, Those Jews, those Jewish Christians from Cyprus and sorry, we're the ones who went outside the fold. and so when they tapped Barnabas to go, they were likely tapping, someone who knew the very people he'd be dealing with
That's not the only reason though. Those are two, good reasons. There's a third reason. That is probably the most important reason for sending Barnabas again. We don't know why, but we're making an educated guess here. And this perhaps is part of what helps drive us to explore Barnabas today.
You see the reason we encounter Barnabas in the fourth chapter? It's because when those first Jews believed in Jesus Christ as the Messiah.
That wasn't an easy decision.
Neighbors and family look down on those decisions. Those who didn't think the Messiah had come start a ostracised this group. And those first early Jewish Christians, had to kind of bond together. They had to kind of support one another in their belief, they even started to share in common their goods. We have to wonder, why did they do that? Well, likely, because they were being cut off by family and friends. They're probably having to share resources to just get by.
And we encounter Barnabas this Joseph, this one, the apostles, call an encourager. Because Joseph comes forward. Barnabas comes forward. Having sold his land. And gave all the proceeds. To this early Jewish Christian Community. That they might live together off of that land. That was sold. That's why we first encounter Barnabas, he's given for us as an example. Over against others who try to play that game. Like I'll give some Barnabas, gives it all. Barnabas is all in. You wonder what to do with change and transition Barnabas Dives in and gives everything.
And in his so doing. He encourages the other Jewish Christians, he encourages the apostles, he encourages everyone,
Barnabas is someone who knows what it is to deal with change and transition and he Dives in and he goes for it, he doesn't keep one foot. Still on land, hoping it'll work out. He doesn't sit back waiting for others to go first. He doesn't even list all the reasons why this isn't a good idea. Instead he goes in and he gives up everything.
What better person I ask you to send to the people, to the north who had to pull up and lose everything. What better person to send to them? Then someone who knows what it is to be all in.
It's a question. We have to ask ourselves, it's a necessary question. We have to ask ourselves as a church and as individuals, how much are we all in for the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
We all live in the dread of persecution that we might have to suddenly pull up or leave.
But we often don't think that anything like that will happen.
We hold on to our lives while living our faith at the same time. Barnabas challenges us. What it means to be all. In.
So what happens when he gets there? What happens to the great encourager when he gets there to Antioch?
My friends, he's simply amazed. By the grace of God.
When he came and saw the grace of God. He was glad. when he saw the grace of God,
this is not about what we do, what he did, what the church did. What it's about is what God is doing. When he saw that God. Was sharing his grace with those outside the fold, He was overwhelmed. When he realized that God's gift for all people was really for all people. When you realize that when God first called out Abraham long ago to make Abraham of people with A land and all that long ago that work that started so long ago that God began all of it was so that the rest of the world would be blessed. But through generations and centuries they've been waiting for when is the time that they would be a blessing to all people? And Barnabas shows up in Antioch and realizes, it's here. It's now. That blessing that was promised for all people is happening now. And he's been allowed to live in a time that he's seen it right before his eyes.
if you have ever been with someone,
Who discovers Jesus Christ. Hears the good news of the Gospel that God, so loves them so much as we read, John 3:16 and 17 or loves them so much that they give their lives over fully. It is a powerful moment.
I've done many new members classes. And what's typical in a new members classes? We go around. We talk about our faith journey and often list the previous churches. We were attendees and I still remember one of those times years ago, we were going around and we come to the young man married been in the church for years, singing in the choir and other new members surprised he is there. And he was there.
Because that church had allowed him to live with them. Sing with them. But he had never been in church before that. And he was in the new members class at that time because he was ready to profess Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. And I tell you what, that new member class stopped And they just gave. Thanks to God.
Barnabas is in Antioch and he's amazed at the grace of God. And he brings them all sorts of encouragement? We think that, like I said, it, we think he goes to check things out. He probably goes to be an encourager to them. And he exhorts them and encourages them. And he almost doesn't know what to do So he tells them because he's got a whole bunch of people in the who now believe in Jesus, but have no background.
It'd be like suddenly getting a 12th grader who's not done the other eleven years of education? Okay, maybe twelve or thirteen years. I don't want to exclude You kindergarteners or preschoolers.
And you suddenly realize there's all this back Worth to fill in. So what does he do? He encourages them. Just hold on. Just hold on to Jesus right now. I just want you to hold on to Jesus. It says to them, he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose. In other words, just hold on, hold on with your heart. Hold on to Jesus as Lord and Savior. We're going to get the rest of it. We're going to help you understand what you now. Have come to believe.
And the next thing he does is astounding. He leaves and he travels another two hundred hundred fifty two hundred miles north and west, and he goes to a place called Tarsus and he goes to get no one else other than Saul or who we know as Paul. Remember Saul the one who started the whole persecution? The whole reason people are now in Antioch. The whole lot, the reason this guy had letters in hand from the high priests and traveled to Damascus to find and catch other Jewish Christians. And he encounters Jesus on the way and he becomes blind. And eventually we spoke the other week about ananias who has to go to him and encourage him, in the Lord Jesus. Well, so got eager now that he found Jesus as Lord and he did a 180 going from persecuting to wanting to embrace Jesus Christ and he tries to get together with other Christians but they won't have it any surprise.
He goes back to Jerusalem and tries to meet other Christians. Saul does
And they shut their doors on you. Why? Cuz they're afraid. It's a trick. They're afraid. This is a new way of trying to find where the Jewish Christians are even the apostles won't meet with him. But there's one, man.
Who encounter Saul? And realizes that Saul needs to meet the apostles. There's one man who arranges that meeting. You want to take a guess who that is? That is Barnabas.
Barnabas. Barnabas is the one who takes Saul to the apostles.
Even though there are number of people who want to kill Saul until eventually, they get them out of Jerusalem and they put them in a safe place. They put them back up on the northern part of the Mediterranean in Tarsus where he originally came from
And there is for a few years.
Until Barnabas who realizes, we've got all these new Christians who have no background, how are we to teach them and train them? And he begins a journey. A travels 150 miles to Tarsus and he taps Saul and says, come with me.
And he brings Saul back. And they begin an academy. A teaching says for another year, they begin teaching those people. Helping them grow in the faith. My friend, there's one important detail that we have not yet covered Back in the fourth chapter and verse 36. When we first encounter Barnabas we learned that he was from Cyprus we we learned that he originally was named Joseph. There was one other fact that we learned that's important at this point. He was a levite. A levite is one of the 12 tribes. A levite was one of those tribes that specific job was the care of the Temple. From within the Levites came a one-family, the Priestly family and they ran the temple, but the rest of the Levites were to care for God's house. They watched over, they protected it. They made sure everything was done right, decently in order they cared for God's house.
and now, Barnabas A levite. Is caring for God's house. What we hear in the scriptures is that God will no longer make his house in the temple. But in a new Temple, which is the body of Jesus Christ.
You've heard before you yourself are Temple of the holy spirit, that you is a plural, that's all of you. Barnabas is busy in Antioch with the Church of Jesus Christ, caring for the temple of God.
Training them up. It is from Antioch that all the missionary Journeys that we read about, it's from Antioch that those Journeys emerge. It's from Antioch that Barnabas and Paul first go out and begin, Paul's missionary Journeys.
so you've been exposed to Barnabas, but before we finish with him, we need to look at his character overall. It was a phrase in here, that was powerful.
For he was a good man. All of the Holy Spirit and a faith. He was a good man. Holy spirit and a faith. A good man. Well, you know all of us can be a good man or a good woman. Matter fact Upon Our death. Usually, that's what people say of us. They were good man or they were a good woman, you know, most people can be said that what we get here. The reason why We share with one another and say someone was good. We usually share why?
The reason here is that he was full of the Holy Spirit and of faith full full off when you poked him, that's what came out.
When you bumped into him, that's what overflowed. He was full of the Holy Spirit and of faith we'll deal with the second one first. Faith. You know what faith is? Faith is believing and trusting in that which you cannot see. We don't exercise a lot of faith when we're not in the place of change and transition. When we are in a homeostasis, or when we're in our normal environment, the way we know things worth the way, we know what will happen. We're not exercising. A lot of faith to be sure you exercise faith today. When you sat down in your chair, believe in it would hold you up, but it always has
But that's not really when we exercise faith. We exercise far more faith in change and transition when we don't know what's going to happen. Next, when we're living in the unexpected, Barnabas was full of faith. He had faith in the unexpected, he had faith during the transition and changes of life. We are being called as Disciples of Jesus Christ to have faith in the difficult changes and transition to live, not by what we can see. But to live by eyes of faith, And why could he do that? Why could Barnabas live and be full of faith? Because he was in the Holy Spirit. Allowed the spirit to guide him. He allowed the spirit to guide him when he sold his property and brought all the proceeds forward. Not sure where this is going to go, or how this is going to work. Not keeping to himself, but sharing with everybody else.
How would he know that it would be so encouraging to the other Jewish Christians into the apostles themselves?
He was full of the Holy Spirit when he saw saw and realize that the Holy Spirit was working on Saul and took him by the hand and led him into the inner ring to be with the apostles.
And when he was tapped by the Jewish Council, in the Jewish church and sent four hundred miles to the north, he went full of the Holy Spirit, ready to see what God was doing and is so often is true. When we really rely on God, when we really lean on God we're that much more amazed when we get there by what God has done.
may we together. Be able to see the hand of the Lord as Barnabas was. See, the work of the Lord, the hand of the Lord. May we have faith. In the holy spirit, that God is at work. In our church. and in us, May we journey forward. And be challenged as Barnabas was. Let us pray.