Tuesday, 4th week of Easter, Acts 11:19-26/ John 10:22-30

“The hand of the Lord was with them” (verse21)

This little line may elude us completely in the powerful narrative taken from today’s first reading of the Acts of the Apostles. The text itself is a kind of flashback. We are taken to chapter seven where Stephen has been martyred and great persecution rocks the believers in Jerusalem (8:1) As a consequence, “all except the apostles were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria.”

The opening verse of today’s text takes us back to that scattering of the Church. Ironically, the word ‘scattered’ does not bring a sense of comfort to us. It indicates separation and division that has come to pass due to force or an unpleasant experience. Yet God’s thoughts can rarely be grasped by our finite imaginations,  even if we may stretch them to the fullest.

The text of today tells us, that for the first time, some of the Greek-speaking believers made a tremendous breakthrough for the faith. From an involuted evangelization that catered only to the Jews, the faith now explodes to the Gentiles; to the Greek-speaking people of Antioch.

The text is going to narrate a flurry of activity. Like any company whose sales have just gone through the roof, necessitating a movement of the best minds to tackle the job, the apostles in their headquarters in Jerusalem hear of this unimaginable growth and are swung into action. They did what any clever ‘organization’ would do; send in the ‘best’ man. They sent ‘Barnabas who was a ‘good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith. (Though that would not be the choice of any multi-national corporation.)

I have a few reflections I want to draw today.

  1. Is the hand of the Lord with you? The hand of the Lord was with the Greek-speaking believers from Cyprus and Cyrene who evangelized to the Greek-speaking residents of Cyprus and Antioch. Were they qualified? Did they have a mandate from Jerusalem? Did they have a master’s degree from Rome? Well, you can have all of the above and be a colossal failure if the Lord’s hand is not with you.

  2. It can be no other hand that confirms ministry but God’s. When HE begins a good thing, HE brings it to completion. If not, you will be like the foolish man who attempted to build that tower that never took off. Many claim to be doing the will and work of God; but they produce only leaves not fruit and you will know them by their fruit.

  3. When ministering, don’t play the number game. Numbers don’t indicate the work of God through you. In today’s text, we are told, “a great number became believers and turned to the Lord.” Unlike in other places in the Acts, we are not given a specific number. What if the great number was ten Gentile converts? That itself may have sounded amazing and impossible to achieve for an infantile Church. If God has chosen you to minister to ten, be happy and serve. Mega Churches and mega congregations don’t necessarily indicate God’s work; the scandals in such Churches are evidence enough.

  4. Discern God’s will. If his hand is on you, no earthly power can hinder the ministry he has called you to. They might give you a tough time, but God will see you through. Anyone who thwarts the work of God is fighting God himself and woe be upon such a person.

  5. When you are called to choose a person to minister in the parish; no matter what the role, ensure that the criteria are those which God would go by. The choice of Barnabas is certainly unlike the choice of any multi-national company seeking to boost sales. The Church in Jerusalem chose a man of faith, a good man and a man of the Holy Spirit. They relied not on talents but on grace and God came through for them.

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