Son of Encouragement (Part 1)
Ever since the day of Pentecost, the Early Church grow in numbers and in love. In Acts 4, Luke provided a detailed account on this new community by joyously exclaimed that “there was not a needy person among them for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales, and lay them at the apostles’ feet; and they would be distributed to each, as any had need.” (Acts 4:34-35 NAS)
Isn’t that amazing? Imagine, living in a community where everyone freely share what they have for the sake of others. It sounds so impossible, yet that is what heppened during the Early Church. However, Luke did not stop there. He continues by adding another information, “And Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means, Son of Encouragement), and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” (Acts 4:36-5:1 NAS) Through this short inclusion, Luke introduce a new character who will be known with his alias rather than his real name. The fact that Luke paused for a while and provide details about Barnabas, proved the importance and his significance to the overall mission of the Early Church. It also revealed Barnabas exemplary and distinctive generosity that sets him apart from other beneficiaries of the Early Church.
Joseph was born as a Diaspora Jews in Cyprus and came from the Tribe of Levi. Now, why would the disciples changed Joseph name to Barnabas? The name Joseph is a Hebrew word that literally means “may God add,” while Barnabas derived from Aramaic word, bar nebua, which means “son of encouragement” or “son of exhortation.” Luke did not offer an explanation as of why the Apostles changed Joseph name to Barnabas. The change of name might indicate the inner quality of Joseph and his passionate service to the Early Church. Probably, the apostles were so touched by the ministry and life of Barnabas until they all agree that his former name is not sufficient to reflect his Godly character.
The use of aramaic words indicate that Barnabas kindness is extended to everyone in the church regardless of their background. He loves everyone and was loved in return! No matter who they are, Barnabas show them the love of Christ and help them to be a better person. Barnabas is not a type of person who expect the church to served him and to make him satisfied. He is someone who is born to serve others with a Christlike love. How about you? Are you a giver or a taker? Barnabas refused to be a taker. He continuously push forward and share his unconditional love with others.