11:19 Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only. 20 But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.
22 Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. 23 When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. 24 For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.
25 Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. 26 And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.
This is a batman story. If you are familiar with the old batman comic you know that it often told you what was happening in one place and then would say "meanwhile..." and would tell you what was happening in another place at the exact same time. That is exactly what is happening here. While Peter is in Caesarea other believers are travelling too. Ever since Stephen was stoned in Jerusalem the believers have been on the move because Jerusalem was no longer safe.
Note that wherever they went they shared the truth about Jesus but only with the Jews. However there was one exception. Some of the believers who left Jerusalem had some "impure" blood. They were Hellenists which is another term for Greeks. Because they were Greek Jews they shared their faith with their countrymen in Antioch. When news got back to Jerusalem Barnabas was sent to see what was going on. Notice that when he arrived and saw that God's grace was being poured out on both Jews and Greeks he encouraged them "for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith".
Peter needed a vision from God repeated three times followed by a live front row seat when God took the initiative and poured out His Spirit on the household and friends of Cornelius before he was willing to accept that from God's perspective "no man is common or unclean". In contrast Barnabas needed no such divine promptings "for he was a good man..."
What is the Bible trying to tell us?
Some of us "get it" more quickly and more easily than others. However God doesn't give up on those of us with "harder" heads. Prejudice is messy and complicated often with deep and tangled roots. How God kills those roots and tears down the walls that divide us is not nearly as important as the truth that He can. Whether we are stubborn like Peter or more flexible like Barnabas, God can reach us all.
As the events of the past week continue to weigh on me I am thankful for God's word. I am thankful for hope. I am thankful I serve a healing God. I am thankful to know a God who can turn men like Saul around completely and change racist hearts like Peter had, and find men like Barnabas and Martin Luther King who just "get it" and can use them to bring peace where trouble could have flourished.
Martin Luther King died in the struggle to unite the hearts of black and white America. I am praying God will find more men like him. I am praying that somewhere in America there is a mighty Barnabas, a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith who will rise up and give reconciliation a fighting chance.
If anyone can find a healing ointment for the current situation it is our God for He reads every heart and sees every sparrow that falls. Alton Sterling was precious to Him and so was Philando Castile. His hand is over their families as well as the family of every officer who was senselessly shot in Dallas.
May the truth of the humble carpenter from Nazareth take hold of them and of us and bring hope where there is hate and healing to our broken hearts.