Summary: This sermon will show us the importance of having a friend that will put his neck on the line for a brother or sister of the faith.
BARNABAS, A MUCH NEEDED FRIEND
While reading last month about the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin Germany, there is a story about a friendship that was birthed between Jesse Owens a Black man and Luz Long a German. Both men were competing in the long jump, Jesse Owens was the early pick to win the event. You see the year before he had jumped 26 feet, 8 1/4 inches setting a new world record that would stand for 25 years. As he walked to the long-jump pit, however, Owens noticed a tall, blue eyed, blond German taking practice jumps in the 26-foot range. Owens naturally felt nervous. He was acutely aware of the Nazis’ desire to prove “Indo-European superiority,” especially over blacks.
At this point, the tall German introduced himself as Luz Long. He said to Owens “You should be able to qualify with your eyes closed!” referring to his two jumps.
And for the next few moments the black son of a sharecropper and the Indo-European model of Nazi manhood chatted. Then Long made a suggestion. Since the qualifying distance was only 23 feet, 5 1/2 inches, why not make a mark several inches before the takeoff board and jump from there, just to play it safe? Owens took his advice and qualified easily.
In the finals Owens set an Olympic record and earned the second of four gold medals. The first person to congratulate him was Luz Long in full view of Adolf Hitler.
As the story ends Owens never again saw Long, who was killed in World War II. Later he wrote of his friend, “You could melt down all the medals and cups I have, and they wouldn’t be a spot on the 24-carat friendship I felt for Luz Long.” Now that is what I call friendship.
At this point Saul is probably feeling the same way about Barnabas. It was Barnabas who brought Saul before the Apostle and attested to his sincerity. And through out the ministry of Paul you would find Barnabas at his side.
In our last lesson we talked about Ananias’ winning results because of his obedience. We noted how he had cast down his fears and put his faith in Jesus to work. It started with him going to Judas’ house as instructed to lay hands on Saul that he might receive his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit. He also baptized Saul and after Saul had eaten he was found preaching in Damascus that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
In this lesson we will find the start of a long lasting friendship. Saul had been away in Arabia for three years between verse 22 and 23 and he again is found in Damascus. But upon his return the Jews that he had encountered in Damascus took counsel to kill him. In verse 22 it said that they were confounded because he proved to them that Jesus was the very Christ. So when he returned to Damascus, the Jews had the permission of the governor and the High Priest to kill him. They had convince the authorities that Saul was a traitor, a rabble rouser and one that could cause trouble if allowed to continue. So they waited on his return but their lying in wait was known by Saul and they watch both day and night at the gate to kill him. That is when the disciples took him by night according to verse 25 and let him down by the wall in a large basket. But that was not the end of Saul troubles. He went down to Jerusalem and upon arriving there he tried to joined himself to the other disciples, but they were all afraid of him and did not believe that he was actually converted. It was in verse 27 when Barnabas took him to the apostles and stated to them that he met Jesus on the Damascus road and is preaching Christ.
So, come with me as we see the friendship of Saul and Barnabas jell into something special.
First of all in verse 27...
1. WE SEE BARNABAS PUTTING HIS REPUTATION ON THE LINE FOR SAUL. (v.27)
“But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that He had spoken to Him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.”
In the text we see Barnabas putting his reputation on the line for Saul. Now Barnabas’ name meant “Son of encouragement” and it proved to be just it meant for Saul. You see Saul found a friend while in Damascus in Ananias, and in Jerusalem he found Barnabas to be a friend there. The reason is because some of the disciples did not believe that Saul had been converted much less he being a disciple of Jesus Christ, whom for a time he sorted to destroy His name. We should note that in verse 26 in the KJV said that Saul assayed to join himself to the disciples. The word assayed in the Greek means to try repeatedly. It appeared the more Saul tried to join them, the more they refused him. That is when Barnabas stepped forward and took him to the apostles. Now what Barnabas was telling the apostles was strictly what he heard Saul testifying about. He too could have doubted Saul, but it is something about the Spirit of the Lord that will make you believe when you don’t want to. So Barnabas willingly repeated what he heard, not only did he repeat it , but he declared it to be so. Now that is the making of a friend. You know you can tell a true friend simply by how they standup for you in front of those that oppose you, especially when they stands up in front of their friends. There are some that will go along to get along and it does not matter who they hurt. They will just stand by their friends. But Barnabas regardless of the position that his colleagues took, the Holy Spirit in him and Saul agreed, thus allowing him to declare that what happened to Saul was true. We can learn something from Barnabas about brotherly friendships. Barnabas did not value the friendships that he had more than he valued what the Spirit was saying to him. He could have join the majority but he chose to walk alone with what the Spirit had revealed to him. I wonder sometimes, are we ready to follow the crowd or are we ready to allow the Spirit to guide us? So, he was willing to put his reputation on the line for Saul.