“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another” (1 Peter 4:10).
Let’s begin with some good news: the “community fridge movement” could “change the way we think about helping each other.” Refrigerators are placed in accessible locations, then food is provided by community members, restaurants, local chefs, urban farmers, grocers, and food pantries.
CNN‘s AJ Willingham describes this as “a growing movement of mutual aid that supports neighborhoods in need while tackling food waste and turning a keen eye to the larger causes of food insecurity.” Latisha Springer in Atlanta and Eric von Haynes in Chicago are leading the way.
Here’s some more good news: an autistic nineteen-year-old man found cold and sleeping in a gas station parking lot has been reunited with his family almost three years after he disappeared in California. Sheriff’s deputies in Summit County, Utah, discovered his identity and alerted his family. “I never stopped looking for him,” his mother told the Associated Press. “There wasn’t a day I wasn’t searching for him, in some form or fashion.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. observed, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” Said differently, what one person does can affect everyone, for good or for harm.
Eight-year-old separated from his family in Afghanistan’s fall
For the first time in three decades, Ramadan, Passover, and Easter coincided this year. As tens of thousands of worshipers have gathered in Jerusalem’s Old City, Palestinians and Israeli police clashed Friday at the Al-Aqsa mosque amid a rise in street violence in Israel across recent weeks.
There were three shootings in the US over the Easter weekend—two in South Carolina and one in Pittsburgh. Two minors were killed and at least thirty-one people were wounded. A man jumped off a Carnival Cruise Line ship into the Atlantic Ocean, the third such incident in two months. Ukrainian police say Russian forces withdrawing from the Kyiv region left behind the bodies of more than nine hundred slaughtered Ukraine citizens.
The US has now passed one million coronavirus deaths. Cultural analyst David French notes that this is “on top of the escalating deaths of despair and the ‘normal’ losses to cancer, heart disease, and all the other maladies that destroy our mortal flesh.” He adds, “Our nation is absorbing such a wave of death that the wealthiest, most technologically-advanced, and most powerful nation in the world is experiencing a decline of life expectancy.”
And a moving Wall Street Journal article describes the anguish of a family separated in the chaos of Afghanistan’s fall. An eight-year-old son became detached from his parents and was left behind in the crush to board the last airplane out of the country.
The miracle that led to the miracle of Pentecost
If these stories make you feel that there is little you can do to help our broken world, remember Dr. King’s wisdom. And remember the results of Easter.
Only a handful of people met Jesus in the days immediately following his resurrection. But that handful soon became “about 120” Christ-followers (Acts 1:15) who were “all together in one place” at Pentecost (Acts 2:1).
Each was then “filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (v. 4). In response, “the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language” (v. 6). This miracle then led to Peter’s Pentecost sermon and the salvation of “about three thousand souls” (v. 41).
We don’t know the names of most of the 120 disciples, but we stand in their spiritual lineage. The same is true for the “more than five hundred brothers” who met Jesus after his resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:6).
Why “Judas called Barsabbas” is so inspiring
One early Christian has especially interested me lately. In Acts 15, the Jerusalem Council determined that Gentiles could become Christians without first becoming Jews, a watershed moment in Christian history. They sent the news to the Gentile church in Antioch with “Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers” (v. 22).
We know Silas from his later engagement with Paul: he accompanied him on his second missionary journey and is mentioned fourteen times in this connection. But “Judas called Barsabbas” is a different story.
“Barsabbas” means “son of Sabbas” (the elder) or “son of the Sabbath” (meaning that he was born on the Sabbath). We learn in verse 32 that he and Silas were both “prophets” and that they “encouraged and strengthened the brothers with many words.”
He may have been related to “Joseph called Barsabbas,” who was one of two men proposed to replace Judas among the twelve apostles (Acts 1:23). The other, Matthias, was chosen by lot (v. 26) and Joseph fades into history.
While we know very little about “Judas called Barsabbas,” every Gentile in Christian history owes him a great debt. His work helped to legitimize and strengthen the Christian movement in historic ways. Imagine a world in which Gentiles must become Jews to become Christians: you and I would be forced to submit to the 613 laws of Judaism and every Gentile male would have to be circumcised to become a Christian and join the church.
“A commission by a heavenly king”
“Judas called Barsabbas” joined a long list of unknown people whose faithfulness changed history. Now it’s our turn.
If you have met the risen Christ personally, you have an obligation to pay forward the grace you have experienced. Every person you meet is someone for whom Jesus died. If you’re thinking right now that your life cannot make a difference in our broken world, guess where that thought is coming from. While history may not record your name, every person you influence for Jesus will be marked for eternity by your faithfulness.
Scottish missionary, scientist, and explorer David Livingstone observed, “If a commission by an earthly king is considered an honor, how can a commission by a heavenly king be considered a sacrifice?”
NOTE: Is it possible to bless God—the one who needs nothing? In our new book, How to Bless God by Blessing Others: Words of Wisdom from the Early Church to Christians Today, Dr. Ryan Denison shows how early Christians blessed God and how we can model our faithful living today on their example. Request your copy of our new book today.