His real name was “Joseph,” but the apostles nicknamed him “Barnabas” (Son of Encouragement). Barnabas had sold a piece of property and gave the proceeds to the apostles that they might help the needy (Acts 4:37). Generosity of that sort must have been a tremendous source of encouragement to the apostles.
Later he would appeal to the same apostles in defense of one Saul of Tarsus, a Jewish enforcer and persecutor of early disciples (Acts 9:27). While traveling to Damascus to carry out orders, Saul was confronted by the Messiah, struck blind, and told to locate a man by the name of Ananias who lived in Damascus. He does and there Saul puts on Christ (Acts 9:1-19). This brings us back to Barnabas. It was Barnabas who made the case before the apostles for Saul to received into their fellowship. Though God had forgiven him of his past, the stench of death and persecution would follow him in the minds of others. Barnabas going to bat for Saul had to have been a great encouragement to him!
It seems to me that Barnabas’s confidence in Saul allowed them to forge a relationship conducive to the advancement of the new covenant cause. They do indeed join forces. They travel and work together establishing and encouraging churches.
Unfortunately, shortly after the Jerusalem conference, Paul (formerly Saul) and Barnabas get crossways over Barnabas’s cousin, John Mark (Acts 15:36-41). Apparently, John Mark deserted Paul and Barnabas while at Pamphylia (Acts 15:38). Paul had lost confidence in John Mark, but Barnabas, for whatever reason, hadn’t. Paul and Barnabas are so at odds with each other that they choose to go their separate ways. Eventually, Paul would have a change of heart with respect to his opinion of John Mark (2 Timothy 4:11), but Barnabas is never mentioned again in the Scriptures.
I don’t know whether Paul was misguided and Barnabas was right about John Mark to begin with or vice-versa, but I am certain that Barnabas’s willingness to stand behind his cousin had to be a confidence booster to John Mark. For whatever reason he had deserted Paul earlier and he might have been a lost cause for the rest of his life had someone not shown confidence in him. Thankfully, the “Son of Encouragement” was there for John Mark to supply the need!
Many of us have a lot to say, but what is it that we are going to say? Are we going to use our voices to be a source of encouragement to those who need it? Are we following the mold of Barnabas?