St. Barnabas, Apostle – Vicar Ferguson
In the Name of Jesus
My time here in Raleigh is coming to a close. It has been a good year, full of fun and other things. As I venture forth from North Carolina, invariable I will be asked what did I learn. I am sure that I will be asked other more mundane things like how was the weather and what did you think of your coworkers. But I always struggle to find a good, substantive answer to “What did you learn”.
This isn’t to say that I have learned nothing. On the contrary this year has been the most educational thus far. I have learned quite a bit, such as the complexity of copier leases, the importance of biblical translation, and much else. But the biggest thing I learned was a unique approach to preaching. I learned this by sitting in church and listening to sermon after sermon and thinking about why the Pastor said what he said. This practical education has been quite illuminating. Learning by reading books and listening to lectures is good and important, but seeing the work in action is very useful.
When you read the Gospel of Mark. The disciples were prepared for their work in the same way. The Gospel begins with the preaching of St. John the Baptist, which is followed by the Baptism of Jesus, and then the temptation of Jesus. Then Jesus begins preaching, casting out demons, and healing. During this time Jesus gathers to himself the twelve disciples that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach, and heal sicknesses, and cast out demons.
The disciples who followed Jesus saw him teach the people in parables. They saw him cast out demons and heal the sick and raise the dead. The disciples saw for themselves the work that Jesus did. Then we get to the Gospel for today. After Jesus called the twelve, he began to send them out two by two. He told them not to take any extra money, cloths, shoes, or staffs.
The disciples were not to venture from house to house as door-to-door salesmen. But they when they entered a house they were to stay there. Their work resembled a doctor whose patients came to him.
What did the disciples do when they got to were they were staying? They preached that the people should repent. They cast out demons and healed the sick by anointing the sick with oil. The disciples did the work that they saw Jesus do. Their practical education was following the Lord and hearing his teaching and seeing his work.
Then in verse 11, Jesus tells the disciples what to do when they are not received. They are to shake off the dust from their feet and walk away. The shaking off of the dust was a stern condemnation for those who would not receive the disciples. Jesus then tells the disciples that the day of judgement will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah than for those who do not receive the disciples. That is a severe condemnation. The people of Sodom and Gomorrah, who treated Abraham’s nephew pridefully, would have a better time in the day of judgement than those who rejected the Lord’s disciples. Why is that?
The disciples were sent in the stead and by the command of Jesus. The disciples did what Jesus told them to do, that what they saw him doing. They were not acting by their own authority but with the power that was given to them. Therefore, those who rejected the disciples rejected Jesus. In Matthew 11, Jesus condemns the unbelieving generation for they neither received John the Baptist nor they did not receive Jesus. Following that condemnation, he tells those who are listening that if Sodom had seen what he had done they would have repented and would not have been destroyed.
Our Lord’s comments in today’s Gospel are very similar to those in the Gospel according to St. Matthew. Those who rejected God and his messengers are worse off than the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah.
But what about those who did not reject God and his messengers? They were given the grace of God. Many in those cities were healed, and may had demons cast out.
Today is the feast day of St. Barnabas. St. Barnabas was fellow worker with St. Paul in the book of Acts. Barnabas was sent out with Paul on several occasions to preach to the people of God. In the reading from Acts we heard how the church at Jerusalem sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived at Antioch Barnabas saw the grace of God. He was glad when he saw this and he exhorted the people that they should continue in the Lord. Barnabas then left and brought Paul to Antioch. When Paul and Barnabas came to Antioch, they were there for a year preaching and teaching the people. After a while prophets from Jerusalem came and told them that a great famine was coming. To help with that famine the people at Antioch sent Paul and Barnabas to Judea with money for the people there.
Barnabas is known for his preaching and teaching. These are the works that our Lord gave to the disciples and are now given to the pastors of Christ’s church. The grace of God has maintained the preaching of the word in our time. That God sends messengers to us so that we might know our sinfulness and receive the forgiveness of that sinfulness is a great blessing that is never to be overlooked.
St. Barnabas is an example for us who are preparing for the office of the holy ministry. His consistency in preaching the word and the support for those around him is to be emulated.
In the name of Jesus.