Change of guard-Thursday, 4th Week in Easter, Acts 13:13-25
Just to recap where we are. A great persecution has broken out in Jerusalem under King Herod, who had James the apostle beheaded. So pleased was he with the response of the Jewish authorities that he had Peter imprisoned with the intention of killing him too. But that night, while the Church prayed for Peter, an angel of the Lord released him and he took refuge in the home of the mother of St (John) Mark (the evangelist) and later went to Caesarea. Herod soon met his fate and was struck down by the Lord.
In all of this, Saul and Barnabas left Antioch for Jerusalem, taking with them John, who’s other name, was Mark (the evangelist). Remaining in Antioch were prophets and teachers (13:1) who, while in prayer, were instructed by the Holy Spirit to set apart Barnabas and Saul for the mission to Seleucia, Cyprus, Salamis and Paphos. After completing this mission they finally arrived in Perga in Pamphylia where after traveling due north into the interior for over a hundred miles, our pericope for today brings Paul and Barnabas to the city of Antioch in Pisidia.
As I said before, there were several cities built by Seleucus Nicator (Greek ruler), and named after his father, Antiochus (Antioch). Under Augustus (Roman ruler), they had attracted a considerable Jewish population, among whom our missionaries had made many converts; and among the Gentiles, many proselytes. This explains the synagogue in Antioch where Paul and Barnabas arrive on the Sabbath.
At once you will realise that even though in Chapter 11:26 we are told they are “called Christians”, we can see that the Jewish character of the Early Church was firmly stuck with the apostle and disciples. Perhaps it was after the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem, that a clear break from worship in the synagogues took place.
There is also an interesting shift in the Church to be noted in today’s pericope. In Chapter 13:9 we are told that Saul is also known as Paul, and with this we see a change in the hierarchy of the Church. So far Barnabas has led the Church in mission; it was always Barnabas(first) and (then) Paul( Acts 11:30,12:25, 13:2 and 7), but now in 13:13 our pericope opens with a new leadership, “Paul and Barnabas” (see also 13:42,46,50 and also Acts 15:2, 22 and 35).
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