April 12, 2015 Text: Acts 4:32-35
Dear Friends in Christ,
People get nicknames for a variety of reasons. Some come by a physical trait like freckles or Red for hair color. Some get it for what they do like Mr. Clutch or Chief. Others get it as a shorter version of their name, Max for Maxwell or Beth for Elizabeth. The nicknames I have had revolve around my last name, Sweet Lou and Wick. What nickname do you have that maybe I don’t know about? I’d love to hear it after church.
Biblical people had nicknames. Peter was the Rock. James and John were Sons of Thunder. And we all know the nickname of the man in our Gospel – Doubting Thomas.
In our text today we come across another nickname. It is actually found in verse 36 but it relates to what is found in our reading. It is Joseph, called Barnabas. His nickname? “Son of encouragement.” He built people up. He gave of himself to others. He supported those who were alone. What a nickname. That is a nickname we could all have. We all can be encouragers.
The name Barnabas is a resurrection nickname. He becomes the encourager because of the power of Jesus’ resurrection. He encourages people because Jesus’ resurrection has brought grace to his life. But Jesus’ resurrection is not just a name changer; it’s also a life changer.
“A RESURRECTION NICKNAME”
When Jesus rose from the dead, people’s lives were changed. Peter the Rock had denied Jesus three times during his trial. No rock-solid confession that night. He is disgraced by denial. But later, Jesus alive, body glorified, meets Peter on a beach and restores him. Remember Jesus asking three times if Peter loved him? This post-resurrection meeting changed Peter. He rises to become a great apostle in the early Church. Same for Thomas. He doesn’t believe until he sees. Once that happens, everything is changed, he believes. He, too, becomes a great apostle in the Early Church. He, too, is changed by the resurrection.
We don’t know if Barnabas ever personally saw Jesus risen from the dead. But it doesn’t matter. The message of Jesus’ resurrection the apostles proclaimed was powerful and life changing too. It changed Barnabas. Jesus, the risen Lord, came to him in that message and he became Barnabas, the encourager.
The same is true for us. The message of Jesus’ resurrection changes us. Are you struggling with a sin? Jesus is risen from the dead. Your life is changed because as you repent that sin is forgiven.
Are you doubting God’s love? Jesus is risen from the dead. Doubt becomes faith strong once again, because His death was because He loves you, and the resurrection proves that was His plan.
Are you too easily angered? Jesus is risen from the dead. Relax and be calm in his peace, because He lives to take care of whatever upsets you.
Are you afraid of getting sick, losing your job, losing someone you love? Jesus is risen from the dead. He is with you always, no matter what.
Are you a complainer and jealous of what others have? Jesus is risen from the dead. Contentment comes from the Lord, who lives to grant you rich supply.
Are you trying not to think of your own death? Jesus is risen from the dead. You, too, will rise, as will everyone who confesses him as did Peter, as did Thomas.
Are you crabby and negative? Jesus is risen from the dead. He can change you to be a Barnabas.
Yes, you can become a Barnabas. Look at what he did. He had some land, some property. He sold it and gave it to the apostles so it could be distributed as people had need.
You can guess the result: the people in need were encouraged. Someone cared for them. Who else was encouraged? Those in the church who watched Barnabas do this. They saw that what they had wasn’t their own either but was the Lord’s gift to them. They gave too. Barnabas, the encourager, changed by the resurrected Jesus, helped make that happen. Do you see what the resurrection looks like? It’s the grace and power of Jesus working in people’s lives.
Here we are. We’ve heard the powerful message of God’s grace. Jesus is risen from the dead. He is at work in our lives. He is changing us. We can each be a modern-day Barnabas.
What does that look like? You have encouraged me with personal notes or e-mails. I save these and read them over in my struggling times. I know my presence or a prayer in the emergency room or hospital room or nursing home or your home has encouraged you after surgery. But in those instances, many times, you and how you are handling things have encouraged me. You know the presence of the Lord in your life and that makes all the difference. The resurrection of Jesus makes all of this possible. We encourage one another.
Through the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives we encourage each other with words that build up and by the generosity that we show. But let us remember one more nickname today – for Jesus. Jesus is given many names: Savior, Good Shepherd, Redeemer, Lord, Prince of Peace. But today we’ve heard another name for Jesus: Life Changer. Jesus’ resurrection gives grace and power to change lives into those who encourage others with words and generosity.
Jesus is risen from the dead. Jesus is the Life Changer.