Sunset in Vermont.
Friday, 11 November 2022
Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. Acts 11:25
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The description of Barnabas as a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith, has been made. It then noted that a great multitude had been added to the Lord. With that stated, it next says, “Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul.”
With the work at Antioch showing such great success, Barnabas’ attention is next directed to Saul. Ellicott notes that it “indicates the assurance that Saul would approve of the work which had been going on at Antioch, and the confident belief that he [Barnabas] was the right person to direct and organise it.”
The idea of Saul (Paul) needing to approve of the work at Antioch makes no sense. Telling people about Jesus is what the disciples were instructed to do. Whether Saul approved of that or not is irrelevant. Further, and has already been noted, it cannot be satisfactorily determined if the Gentiles had even been evangelized in Antioch at this point. That is wholly dependent on the change of one word in various manuscripts.
What seems likely is that Barnabas simply extended his efforts to where Paul was located. He was sent out to encourage and strengthen those who had been scattered after the stoning of Stephen. Saul had been sent away by the apostles because of his own persecution by the Jews (Acts 9:30). Therefore, it should be expected that he would search for Paul, just as he sought out the others who had been sharing the message of Jesus.
This seems more likely based on the word Luke uses and which is translated as “search.” It is a word only found elsewhere in the account in Luke 2 where Jesus was temporarily lost to Joseph and Mary –
“When they had finished the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and His mother did not know it; 44 but supposing Him to have been in the company, they went a day’s journey, and sought Him among their relatives and acquaintances. 45 So when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him.” Luke 2:43-45
The word signifies “to search up and down.” It is a word, anazéteó, that carries with it the idea of difficulty in the task. Barnabas’ mission was to seek out these people of the scattering and to encourage them in their sharing of the news about Jesus. Having no idea about Saul’s status or condition, he set out to find him and see how he was faring. Rather than seeking Saul’s approval, he is seeking Saul’s effectiveness in evangelism in the area he had gone to.
The Pulpit Commentary notes that this occurred ten years after the crucifixion. It is uncertain how that date was determined, but they continue with a note that “From Seleucia to the port of Tarsus would be about a twelve hours’ sail; or, by land, a journey of about eighty miles would bring him to Tarsus from Antioch.” Barnabas was on a mission to find Saul and so he either traveled by ship or by land to find him.
Life application: Barnabas was sent forth to encourage others in their efforts. The narrative shows that he not only did so but that he was quite effective in the job set before him. Being a good encourager is a noble trait, but there is a truth that lies behind it as well. Solomon says –
“As iron sharpens iron,
So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” Proverbs 27:17
Regardless as to Barnabas’ ability to encourage, there needs to be someone to encourage as well. Only when the two meet up can the strengthening take place. And so, as you go out today, think of someone you haven’t talked to in a while and give him a call or an email (or even stop by for a visit) and provide a bit of encouragement. It may be just what this person needs. If so, it isn’t going to happen unless the two of you come together.
And the benefit of this is that just as you will sharpen that particular person, you will be sharpened in turn. Such things will naturally go in two directions at the same time. Give it a try and you will find that you are also a recipient of the very encouragement you intended to pass on to another.
Lord God, time is short, and days are often filled with busy work. But there are things we can do that will bless and benefit others if we just take the time to reach out. And so, Lord, help us to extend ourselves out to people who come to mind, letting them know that they are appreciated and also encouraging them in their lives. Help us in this so that we will be people of encouragement to those who may need it. Amen.