The centre of Christianity has now moved to Antioch of Syria, where a first team of missionaries is being sent out by the church in response to the call of the Holy Spirit. From the ethnically diverse group of prophets and teachers, Barnabas and Saul were chosen to go. They started off in Barnabas’ homeland, Cyprus - he wanted his countrymen, family and friends to hear the Good News. Do we want the people close to us to be saved? Let us be praying and looking for opportunities to share, so they can enter God’s Kingdom. May we be guided by the Holy Spirit like Saul was, as we seek to witness, not shying away from a powerful manifestation of God’s power as the same Spirit lives in us (v. 9-12).
The next stage of their first missionary journey takes Paul and Barnabas to another Antioch (Paul now the main spokesperson). The method they developed was to first share the Gospel with Jews in their synagogues/meeting places. Here Luke is quoting Paul’s sermon, which includes a lot of references to Jewish history since he is speaking to a mainly Jewish audience. Paul would always start with what was familiar to his audience and then make a link to Jesus who offers forgiveness of our sins (v.38). Guided by the Holy Spirit, we too can turn our everyday conversations around to talk about Jesus, who He was, what he did back then and what He is doing right now, even in our lives.
The Jewish opposition a week later only served to further expand God’s Kingdom. Paul quoted from Isaiah 49:6, reminding the Jews that the Gentiles had been included in God’s promise of ‘salvation to the farthest corners of the earth’. The latter rejoiced at this and “the Lord’s message spread throughout that region”. Inevitably, persecution started up again forcing Paul and Barnabas to leave. They left in a manner taught by Jesus (in Luke 9: 5; 10:10-11 e.g.) shaking the dust off from that town to show that they “have abandoned people to their fate” (Luke 9:5).
The early Christians took Jesus’ command seriously to ‘Go and make disciples ...’ (Matt 28: 18-20) Despite verbal and physical opposition they kept going. We are not responsible for how people respond, but we have all been called to spread the Good News. Who could you share it with today?
Holy Spirit, guide us to the person who needs to hear the Good News today, so your Kingdom will continue to expand. Open eyes, ears, minds and hearts to see you, hear you, understand and receive you, in Jesus’ name, Amen!