We see Paul and Barnabas go their separate ways today. But even with this division God still uses them both.
When I first read today’s passage I thought, “another one of those they went here and there and… passages.” I already confessed how much I don’t enjoy those kind of stories but then I started thinking about our main characters; Paul and Barnabas. I started thinking about their personalities and how those personalities played into this separation.
In our first verse we see that Paul is the one who brings up the idea of going back to visit the churches they planted. Paul is a doer. He enjoys teaching the people in Antioch but he love being on the front lines making new believers. Antioch now has MANY people that can help shepherd the church there. They are replete with wise leaders. Also the big controversy over faith v works is over. Paul needs a new challenge.
Paul is also headstrong and once he makes up his mind to do something there is little that can stop him. Short of the Holy Spirit that is. Paul showed us this characteristic the second time we met him. At that time he was the ardent persecutor of the church. He went after them with everything he had. When he was confronted by Jesus he went into witnessing for Him just as boldly. He even went back to the place where he had been stoned in order to meet with some of the new believers. In fact, when his life was threatened several times HE didn’t retreat on his own but the brothers sent him away or got him out of the cities. He probably would have been happy to face them down in the street.
Paul also expects everyone around him, especially those he is directly working with, to be just as committed as he is. John Mark let him down the last time they worked together. John Mark left before the major part of the missionary journey. Paul made up his mind that John Mark’s leaving was a sign of weakness and not one that he was willing to chance encountering again. Nothing Barnabas said would change Paul’s opinion of John Mark at that point in time.
Barnabas on the other hand was always an encourager and a champion for the underdog. We got to see that firsthand when he befriended Paul shortly after his conversion. When Paul, going by Saul at that time, came to Jerusalem the brothers didn’t want to have anything to do with him. They were afraid his whole conversion was an act. But Barnabas was willing to put his own life on the line to give Saul a chance. He is the one that introduced and vouched for Saul with the brothers in Jerusalem.
Now Barnabas is taking up the cause of John Mark. Barnabas knows that the Spirit is working in John Mark and that he needs another chance. John Mark’s previous behavior doesn’t scare Barnabas away from working with him. Instead it challenges him to help this young man develop into the mighty man of God that Barnabas knows he will become. With a little more encouragement and support John Mark will be a wonderful tool for Jesus. Barnabas is SO sure of this that he is willing to stand toe to toe with Paul over John Mark’s future.
This is not an issue that either Paul or Barnabas are willing to compromise on. They ends up “splitting up the band” over it. Neither leave the faith and neither give up the idea of visiting the churches they planted together. They agree to disagree.
Each partner now goes in search of a new partner. We already know who Barnabas will choose. Paul choses Silas. We just met Silas in our reading but Paul had an opportunity to get to know him over some time. Silas was one of the men who accompanied Paul and Barnabas back to Antioch with the decision of the Jerusalem council. They will make an excellent team.
I just got a word picture I want to share. When tulips grow they multiply in number. If left unchecked they will become so overcrowded that they won’t bloom. They need to be thinned periodically. You have to wait until after they flower and completely wither before digging them up. Once dug up you have to separate the new portions of the bulb into two or more independent plants. You replant the two halves of the original bulb and gain two new healthy flowers, both full of energy to start even more future flowers.
So what started out looking like a nasty break up has resulted in two terrific teams spreading the word of God. Satan didn’t succeed in stopping the gospel by breaking up these two dynamic men. Instead God DOUBLED the reach, and the two new team members got a chance to grow through the newly “divided bulb.”
Father God, I see myself in Paul’s description today. Or should I say, my old self. I am still a determined person but I have learned to temper it A LOT! Thank You for that!!! I remember my mom telling me once that when I got something into my head I was at times beyond logic in trying to make it happen. I laugh about it now but back then it only brought tears. I wonder if Paul was that stubborn in his arguments. I’ll have to ask him some day. Thank You for changing Paul too. You showed me that he too changed over time.
Thank You for the Barnabas’ in my life and that You have actually made me a bit more like him. The one who sees the good in everyone and works to make it shine through. I wouldn’t be here without my own Barnabas’ during the rough times in my life.
Thank You that You can make good come out of anything that we are willing to place in Your hands. Thank You for showing me more in Your word today than just who went where. Thank You that even the simplest things, when given to You, can become exciting! And thank You for the word picture. That was the icing on my cake today. It proved to me that You REALLY are in charge of our time together. I wouldn’t have gotten there without You, especially because I have ten black thumbs and know VERY little about plants. YOU gave me that gift, again.