Barnabas & Bar-Jesus

The Mesaoria Plain spreads west
From Salamis beneath the crest
Of Kyrenian Mountains to
The north, and splits the island through,
And makes a way for level roads
To Paphos with their endless loads
Of copper, bringing wealth and fame,
And from which Cyprus took its name.

The mountains and the plains were known
To Barnabas, for he had grown
Up in these hills. His father came
Here from Jerusalem. The flame
Of faith among his Jewish kin
Had flickered low, and he knew in
His heart the call of God to go
And serve the synagogues below
The port of Paphos where the rot
Of pagan sorcery had shot
It's evil way through families,
And captured Jewish refugees,
And turned the minds of boys and girls
To casting spells with sacred pearls
And making deals with demon lords
And drinking drugs from magic gourds.

He was a Levite and a man
Of faith, and knew the saving plan
Of God, and lived in hope that he
Would see Messiah come and be
The King and capture Cyprus for
His name, and magic be no more.

He named his firstborn Joseph in
The hope that sorcery and sin
Would not ensnare the boy away
From home; but stir him up to pray
And turn him, like the patriarch,
To God, that he might make his mark
By bringing people into light,
And turning all that's wrong to right,
And setting straight the crooked ways,
And making bright the darkest days.

The years went by and Joseph stood
His ground. His father preached the good
And holy ways of Moses and
The mercy of the mighty hand
Of God. Sometimes the local boys
Would take their shells and cultic toys
And cast their spells on Joseph while
He did his work, and holler vile
And lurid things to fill his head
With dirt and trash. But Joseph said,
"The blind cannot improve my sight,
Nor can they lead the way to light.
The Lord has given me his bliss;
No magic spell can darken this."

It seemed that all would go as planned,
But then one night a savage band
Of wizards from the cult of Tyre
Attacked and set their house on fire.
The boy escaped and found his way
On ships down to the southern bay
Of Ascalon, and then up to
Jerusalem, where Joseph grew
For thirty years to be a man.
He never saw his dad again;
But heard the gospel on the day
Of Pentecost and joined the Way
Of Life. And every where he went
He spread the Lord's encouragement.

And so it was that Barnabas
Now stood in ominous suspense
With Paul and John above the port
Of Paphos near the ancient fort
Of Kition. The memories
Rushed back from paths and smells and trees
That he had known. He bowed his head
To pray, but could not. All the dread
Of that one night rose devil-like
And tried with hellish might to strike
The shield of faith out of his hand
And overthrow what they had planned.

But Paul reached out and touched his friend,
And said, "O Lord, before the end
Of this same day, grant us to stand
Before the ruler of this land,
And let us testify with power
To you, and in that very hour
Let him believe."

And thus before
The day was done, the governor
Of Cyprus heard the word of God.
But with him stood a man who trod
The gospel under foot like trash.
Bar-Jesus was his name and cash
Could buy his magic anywhere
And any time. "Now let's be fair,"
He said, "Before we all believe,
Behold what my arts can achieve!
Consider, Sergius Paulus, this:
That I commune with the abyss,
And fashion deals with demon lords
And miracles with magic gourds.
May I suggest good governor,
That you consider Satan more."

At this the Holy Spirit came
In power to vindicate the name
Of Jesus Christ, and Paul stood up:
"You are a devil's son, and sup
With demons at the sewage trough
Of hell, full of deceit and off
The mark on every word, and vile
Down to the roots. And drunk with guile,
You think to make the straight paths of
The Lord a crooked way? Above
Your tiny thought and little power
The Lord of glory has this hour
And you and Sergius Paulus there
Between the fingers of his hand.
We've come to do what he has planned.
And now, Elymas, you will find
Until it's done you will be blind."

Bar-Jesus stumbled out the door
And fell across the polished floor
In darkness like a frightened child.
He took his bag, and with a wild
And fierce and bitter swing threw all
His pearls against the palace wall,
And swore against the powers of hell
For half an hour, and then he fell
Exhausted to the ground outside
And wept as though his god had died.

He jerked his hand back from the touch:
"Who's there?" "A friend." "I have no such."
"But you did once." "What do you mean?"
"When you were young, when you were green
When life was clean and pure and fun
When you were still a Jewish son
And didn't know your magic yet.
You had a faithful friend. I'll bet
You even know his name." "Who are
You man? Who do you mean?" "This scar
Here on your arm, who gave you that?"
"Some kid. He was a preacher's brat.
It must be thirty years ago."
"A friend?" "Well, sort of. How'd you know?"
"What were you doing — I mean when
You got the scar?" "Good night, how can
I remember that? Just playing, I
Suppose." "Or working? Way up high
Inside my father's synagogue."

Bar-Jesus gaped into the fog
Around his head. "Joseph! Are you
Alive? You are alive. It's true.
They lied. They told me you were dead.
They lied. They said the Tyrian dread
Had killed you all. And I was so
Enraged at God I tried to show
My right, and made a pact with Death.
And since that day my every breath
Has been a curse, that God would trade
For death, the one friend I had made.
And now you are alive, and I
Am blind, and God is just. But why!
O Joseph, why?"

"I think I know,
Dear friend: God meant for me to go
And meet the Christ and then return
To preach, that you and I might learn
That he can take away the dread,
He can raise us from the dead,
He can cancel every curse,
Spoken in his face and worse,
He can break the powers of hell,
He can make a blind man well."

So Barnabas reached out his hand:
"We came to do what God had planned.
And you, Bar-Jesus, had to find
Till it was done that you were blind.
And now it's done. Let there be light;
In Jesus' name receive your sight."

And so let candle two declare:
God spreads his brightness everywhere.
He loves with every loving test,
And times his loving for the best.
What God withholds from us today
He will give back a better way.

©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission.

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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. ©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org