11 June 2013

The Son of Encouragement

He was not one of the Twelve, and he was gradually overshadowed and eclipsed by St. Paul, but St. Barnabas was an apostle, a “sent one” of the Lord Jesus.  He was “a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith,” who was called by the Holy Spirit, not only to discipleship, but to the apostolic ministry of the Gospel.  To that Office he was ordained by the laying on of hands with the Word of God and prayer, and he was sent by the Lord through His Church to preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins in the Name and stead of Christ Jesus.

In this sending of men, like Barnabas, whom He has called and ordained, the Lord Jesus continues His own Ministry of the Gospel.  For He sends them with His own authority to cast out demons, to heal diseases, to forgive sins and save sinners.

Everything that Jesus does, His Apostles do as well, always depending on Him and delivering what He has uniquely accomplished by the atoning Sacrifice of His Cross.  It is the Redemption of His Cross, the purchase and cleansing of His holy, precious Blood, and the New Creation of His Resurrection, that He proclaims and bestows by the preaching and ministry of His messengers.  And though, of course, they do not make atonement for sins (which Christ has done once for all), they do bear and carry the Cross after Him.

Those who are sent, including St. Barnabas, are first of all called to follow Jesus, and to learn from Him, as disciples and catechumens of His Word.  They have nothing to give to others, except what they themselves have heard and received from Him.  Nor are they to rely on anyone else, but they receive His provision by grace within the household and family of His Church.

What is true for every Christian, is especially true for the ministers of the Gospel, that, like the Levites of the Old Testament, their heritage is the Lord Himself and His Holy Name.  Not land or wealth, nor privilege, popularity, or prestige, but the Gospel is their Treasure.

That same Gospel is also your Treasure, which the same Lord Jesus Christ generously gives to you by the Ministry of His means of grace.  In Holy Baptism, He has called you out of darkness into His marvelous Light.  He has raised you from death and the grave unto newness of life.  He has turned you from your sins to Himself, and to His God and Father in Him.  And He has brought you from idolatry to the worship of the true and living God.  He has cast out your unclean spirit by the forgiveness of all your sins, and has anointed and filled you with His Holy Spirit.

Thus, He has made of you a new creation, and has prepared a permanent place for you in Paradise.  That is your true home, and there is your true family, with Barnabas and all the Apostles, and all the saints of God in Christ Jesus.

Therefore, though you are not an apostle, and most of you will not become pastors and teachers of the Church, nevertheless, as a Christian you are called to live by faith in Christ and in love for your neighbors, especially for those who belong to the household and family of God.

What that meant for “Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth,” even before he was called and ordained to the Office of the Ministry, was that he sold his property and laid all of the proceeds at the feet of the Apostles for the care of the community of the Church.  Such charity of faith exemplifies the reason for which the Apostles called him, “Barnabas,” that is, the “Son of Encouragement.”

Thus did he become a true Levite, indeed, in supporting the Royal High Priesthood of Christ in His Church and Ministry on earth: Not only the Twelve in Jerusalem, but then also St. Paul following his conversion, in the blossoming mission of the Gospel to the Gentiles.  Later, St. Barnabas lent his strength and support to St. Mark, by whose hand we have received the Holy Gospel.

Again and again, we find St. Barnabas giving of himself in loving service to others; not seeking fame or glory for himself, but living in the grace of his Lord Jesus Christ, by faith in the Gospel.

That is what it means to be sent out without any bread or bag or money belt, but only with your staff in hand and sandals on your feet.  It is the new and greater Exodus of Christ, the Son of God, who has crossed over from death into life by His Sacrifice for us and in His Resurrection.  He is our true Passover, who is alone our Meat and Drink indeed.  He is your Daily Bread, your Manna from heaven, which God the Father opens His gracious hand to provide you in the wilderness.

You are baptized into His Exodus, and, now, it is by His Staff that you are guarded from all harm and danger, and that you are guided on the Way of Life.  So, too, it is with His perfect Peace, such as this world cannot give, but He gives by the Gospel, that your feet are washed and sandaled.

You have such Peace in Christ, as Barnabas did (and does!), whether you live or whether you die, because your sins are all forgiven, and your true and everlasting life is hidden with Christ in God.

Barnabas was a good man, not because he was sinless or perfect, but by faith in the Gospel of Christ Jesus, by the cleansing and sanctification of the Holy Spirit: by the grace of God, and to the Glory of His Name.  For He who created the heavens and the earth, for the sake of His own divine eternal Love, also brings about this new thing by His Word:

Even to the ends of the earth, to coast lands and islands, to Cyprus and Cyrene, to Singapore and Sumatra, to Siberia and Sudan, and even to South Bend and southern Michigan, He causes His Word to be preached, He pours out His Spirit, and He provides the Bread of Life for His people.

As surely as the Gospel went out from Jerusalem to the Greeks by the speaking of St. Barnabas, and as surely as alms were then sent from the Gentile Christians in Antioch to the Church in Judea by the hand of that good man, so surely has the Lord opened His mouth to speak to you, and opened His hand to feed you in this place.  As He thereby opens your ears to hear and opens your mouth to feast upon the Passover of Christ in His true Body and true Blood, so then also, sing unto the Lord this New Song that He has taught you: The Song of God and of the Lamb forevermore.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

No comments: