Connecting the Dots – Barnabas

In Bible Study last night, we saw this passage from Acts:

When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. (Act 12:12)

By itself, it is just an historical note. but note also this passage from Colossians:

Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, welcome him), (Col 4:10)

And then we remembered that Barnabas used to own land around Jerusalem (due quickness he was able to sell the land in light of the church’s need):

Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet. (Act 4:36-37)

So we remember that Mary, the mother of John is the one who owned the house in Jerusalem. This is possibly the same house that Jesus and the other disciples met in to have the Last Supper.

And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover. (Mar 14:12-16)

We’ve always found this passage odd, because men don’t carry jars of water. That is a servant’s job, or the job of a woman. Yet, and this man stands out from the crowd here for this act, here is the sign for the address for the Upper Room. Whoever the Master of his house is, this is the only mention we have of him (AD 30). If this is Mary’s house by Acts 12 (AD 44) then this family has been through a few things.

We might explain Joseph’s presence by being the eldest male member of the family. Even if he is a Cypriot, we would be obligated to come back to the homeplace to help take care of things, and even be a father to John Mark in a sense.

Thus we see him first in Acts 4 already given his nickname by the fellowship due to his encouraging nature, but then infrequently through Acts 15 where he decides to take Mark with him to Cyprus against Paul’s desires. This disagreement may have stemmed from Barnabas’ nature of encouragement, trying to encourage his young cousin’s work in missions against Paul’s objections. Barnabas wants to give Mark a second chance while Paul does not. Barnabas and Paul separate, and Barnabas takes Mark to Cyprus. According to tradition, Barnabas eventually is martyred in Salamis, whose dying wish is that Mark follow Paul after he is gone.

Some early church fathers attest that Barnabas was one of the original 70 disciples that Jesus sent throughout Judea. (“According to Clement of Alexandria (Strom. 2, c. 20, vol. 2, p. 192, ed. Klotz), Eusebius (Hist. Ecc_1:12), and Epiphanius (Haer. 20:4), he was one of the seventy disciples (Luk_10:1).” – “Barnabas”, Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature, 1895) ) If so, Barnabas was involved in the Christian movement from the very beginning, even causing some to say that the other disciple proposed to replace Judas was a misspelling of Barnabas, spelled Barsabbas. Even so, we find Barnabas involved early in the work of the Church. His family, that is his cousin’s mother (sister-in-law?) Mary may have hosted the very Passover that Jesus instituted the elements of Communion. His family’s home became a place for the early church to meet and pray, at least as we find it in Acts 12, within the walls of Jerusalem.

With this, the persons of Barnabas and John Mark become more significant. If we read between the lines, we find a family who is involved with the birth and growth of early Christianity and culminate in this family’s contribution to the New Testament in the gospel of Mark. Perhaps Mark’s gospel is more than just the preaching of Peter, but also of Barnabas.

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I've been in ministry in the Christian Churches/ Churches of Christ for 20+ years. Finished my doctorate in Biblical Studies in 2015. Serve today as a Hospital Chaplain.

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