“Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:36-37). Thus we are introduced in the New Testament to Barnabas, who missionary calling and work would lead him, like the Twelve and Paul, to be called an apostle. Like Paul, he was a Jew of the Diaspora, “a native of Cyprus”. When Paul came to Jerusalem after his conversion, the disciples were afraid to receive him. But Barnabas brought Paul to the Twelve and declared to them how, on the road to Damascus, Paul had seen the Lord, and how Paul had preached boldly in the name of Jesus (Acts 10:27). Later, having settled in Antioch, Barnabas sent for Paul to join him in leading the community of believers (where they were first called, Christians) in that city.
Barnabas and Paul were sent by the church in Antioch to carry famine relief to the church in Jerusalem. Upon their return, the church in Antioch commissioned and sent them on their first missionary journey, which began in Cyprus. At Lystra in Asia Minor, the superstitious inhabitants mistook them for gods, supposing Paul to be Hermes, the messenger of the gods, and Barnabas to be Zeus, the ruler of the gods, a testimony to what must have been his commanding presence. The missionary association between Paul and Barnabas was broken, after this first journey, by a disagreement over Mark, who had prematurely left the mission to return to Jerusalem. After attending the council of apostles and elders in Jerusalem with Barnabas, Paul made a return visit to the churches that he and Barnabas had founded in Asia Minor. Barnabas and Mark went to Cyprus, where Barnabas is traditionally honored as the founder of the Church in that place.
Judging from evidence in Paul’s letters to the Galatians, the Corinthians, and the Colossians, Barnabas continued his evangelistic journeys after the Cypriot mission. According to tradition, Barnabas was martyred at Salamis in Cyprus.
prepared from Lesser Feasts and Fasts (1980), with amendments
Grant, O God, that we may follow the example of your faithful servant Barnabas, who, seeking not his own renown but the wellbeing of your Church, gave generously of his life and substance for the relief of the poor and the spread of the Gospel; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The First Lesson
Thus says God, the Lord,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people on it
and spirit to those who walk in it:
“I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness;
I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
a light for the nations,
to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.
I am the Lord; that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to carved idols.
Behold, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth
I tell you of them.”
Sing to the Lord a new song,
his praise from the end of the earth,
you who go down to the sea, and all that fills it,
the coastlands and their inhabitants.
Let the desert and its cities lift up their voice,
the villages that Kedar inhabits;
let the habitants of Sela sing for joy,
let them shout from the top of the mountains.
Let them give glory to the Lord,
and declare his praise in the coastlands.
Happy are they who fear the Lord *
and have great delight in his commandments!
Their descendants will be mighty in the land; *
the generation of the upright will be blessed.
Wealth and riches will be in their house, *
and their righteousness will last for ever.
Light shines in the darkness for the upright; *
the righteous are merciful and full of compassion.
It is good for them to be generous in lending *
and to manage their affairs with justice.
For they will never be shaken; *
the righteous will be kept in everlasting remembrance.
They will not be afraid of any evil rumors; *
their heart is right;
they put their trust in the Lord.
Their heart is established and will not shrink, *
until they see their desire upon their enemies.
They have given freely to the poor, *
and their righteousness stands fast for ever;
they will hold up their head with honor.
The wicked will see it and be angry;
they will gnash their teeth and pine away; *
the desires of the wicked will perish.
The Second Lesson
Acts 11:19-30; 13:1-3
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 Cyprus and Cyrene, who on 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 report of 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 had 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.
Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). So the disciples determined, everyone according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.
Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. Acquire no gold nor silver nor copper for your belts, no bag for your journey, nor two tunics nor sandals nor a staff, for the laborer deserves his food. And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. As you enter the house, greet it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.
The Lessons and Gospel are taken from the English Standard Version Bible. The Collect and Psalm are taken from the Book of Common Prayer (1979).
The icon of Saint Barnabas is taken from the website of the Holy Transfiguration Monastery.