This past Sunday was a Sunday of friendships. On the one hand the gospel was about the centurion who asks Jesus to heal his servant. The fact that this centurion goes out of his way to ask Jesus’ help implies that this servant was more than a servant. He was a friend. And the centurion does what only a friend would do when another friend is in need.
On the hand, Sunday was the feast day of St. Barnabas of the Seventy. His name was Joseph and he was a Jew in dispersion, from Cyprus. During his studies in Jerusalem under the famed Gamiliel he befriended Saul (the future Apostle Paul). Both he and his friend Saul were very dedicated and pious Jews but Barnabas, unlike his friend, upon hearing the public ministry of Jesus, he followed Jesus and believed in Him as the Messiah. Later, the Lord choose him to be one of His Seventy Apostles. He is mentioned in the Book of Acts: “Joseph, a Levite born in Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), sold a field he owned, brought the money, and turned it over to the apostles” (4:36–37).
Even though his friend Saul had this amazing vision on the road to Damascus which, in fact, is one of the most famous visions and conversion stories in Scripture and Christian history, the rest of the Apostles were not too convinced. They were afraid of him. Thus, when Paul came to Jerusalem after his conversion it was his old friend Barnabas who brought Paul to the apostles, and declared to them how, on the road to Damascus, Paul had seen the Lord, and had preached boldly in the name of Jesus (Acts 9:27).
One wonders in both of these cases – of the sick servant and the newly enlightened Paul – what their future would have looked like had not their friends intervened.