For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”). He was from the tribe of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus. He sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles.Acts 4:36-37
What is interesting here is that Joseph, whom we know as Barnabas, the son of encouragement, is one of the apostles. What is happening in the Christian community is that many of the followers are selling up their possessions and giving the money to the disciples. In this case we are told that Barnabas was one of those apostles. This is the point at which the core disciples are now given the name of apostles – those set apart to lead this new fledgling church. It is clear from other passages that we are not just talking about the original eleven disciples, plus Mathias. There were clearly a number of leaders among an expanded group of disciples. Barnabas was one of these leaders.
Not only was he one of the apostles but he was also a Levite. He is the link between the Old Testament practices and the New Testament new wineskins – the new order. Cyprus played a significant part in Judaism as it was close to the coast of Palestine and Cypriots were influenced by the proximity. Subsequently they were close enough to the action in Jesus’ time yet detached enough to chart their own course in response to Jesus’ claims and miracles. Barnabas is one who has embraced it all. Thus he is a Levitical Cypriot believer who accepted the claims of this Judean Messiah.
Let me address the questions asked by one of you. Indeed it is true that Levites were not allowed to own land in Old Testament times. How is it then, that Barnabas had land to give? Was he a true Levite or not? By New Testament times, many Levites did in fact own land. Some, like the Sadducean priests, were even rich as a result of the land they owned. Rightly or wrongly, the practice at the time of Jesus’ ministry on earth and following those days, fit with the record Luke gives to us. Yes, Barnabas did own land as did many others. But in this case, it is not his owning land which is at the centre of this account. What is in focus here is the fact that he sold the land and immediately gave all of the proceeds to his fellow apostles. The juxtaposition of these two actions – selling land and giving the proceeds away adds to the immediacy of the completeness of Barnabas’ sacrifice. What is at the heart here is that this leader exemplifies the practice of what the laity were doing in their generosity for the benefit of others. We have been told that before, in chapter two and earlier in this chapter (4).
And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need.Acts 2:44-45
All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need.Acts 4:32, 34-35
All believers including Cypriots and the leaders of the disciples – the apostles themselves. Those who gave, shared everything they had – their property and their possessions and shared the proceeds, everything they had. This refrain is repeated several times. The prohibition of the Council was all-encompassing, as was the reaction of the people AND THEIR LEADERS.
These followers, unlike the ones I told you about in the last Gems, did not hesitate or desire to withdraw the funds they had contributed. These believers gave their all, including the leaders, unlike the religious leaders of Israel. Barnabas has been introduced in this way because he exemplifies the all-encompassing nature of this group of believers who share with everyone – Jews, Palestinians and Cypriots. Not only that but in this group, the laity and the leaders all gave to the cause for everyone. Furthermore, they gave their ALL.
Notice how this is being set in contrast with what is to follow!
From the beginning every single decision we make is carving out our destiny. No decision is insignificant.D. Ridgley
In reading lives of great people, I found the first victory won was over themselves.Harry S. Truman
We don’t grow when we get what we want. We grow when we can be content when we don’t get what we want.Joyce Meyer
Life’s tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.Benjamin Franklin