Do you ever get tired of doing the right thing?
Maybe you’ve been kind to a difficult person for years. Or you’ve worn out your knees in prayer but still wonder if you’re living how God wants you to live. Or you’ve made a point during the pandemic to reach out to scores of people to see if they’re OK but no one ever checked on you.
Be honest. Don’t you sometimes wish for a smidgen of recognition? A round of applause for keeping the faith? A whispered “well done”?
I wonder if Mnason ever felt that way. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, then you get my point.
Mnason appears in just one verse of the Bible: Acts 21:16. But what a verse!
Some background for context: Acts 21:1-14 talks about the last part of Paul’s third missionary journey. Then Paul goes to Caesarea to visit Philip—deacon-turned-evangelist, father of the Ethiopian church. While in Caesarea, fellow believers plead with Paul to not go to Jerusalem. Paul rebukes them and sets out anyway. “Some of the disciples”—probably people Philip had evangelized—accompany Paul for his safety.
Then comes the verse about Mnason housing them. We’re fairly sure Luke wrote Acts, and Luke was a very detail-oriented guy. As a physician, his keen powers of observation came with the job. So why did Luke slide in this detail?
Let’s start with the obvious. Mnason was from Cyprus. Mnason is described as an “early believer.” That means he almost certainly saw Jesus in the flesh.
Here’s what’s really interesting. The name “Mnason” means “remember.” File that for a minute.
As one of the church’s earliest believers, think of what Mnason saw—and likely participated in! Heard Jesus. Saw Him resurrected. Experienced Pentecost. Suffered under Saul’s persecution of the church. Talked with the first Gentile converts to Christianity (Acts 10 – 11).
Rifle through the first twenty chapters of Acts. Mnason was in the mix. Unnamed but still present.
So why does that matter?
Because he was faithful regardless.
How many times in Christianity’s earliest years had Mnason been passed over for a special assignment? He wasn’t one of the Twelve. When the Apostles decided who would replace Judas, Mnason had the qualifications but didn’t make the final cut (Acts 1:21-26). The Apostles also didn’t pick him as one of the Seven (the first deacons; Acts 6:1-6).
Yet Mnason likely did all the following:
- Ministered to new believers at Pentecost after Peter preached his first sermon
- Felt the ground shake when praying believers praised God after Peter and John’s release (Acts 4)—and preached the Word with boldness right after that event (Acts 4:31)
- Participated in bringing many of the Jewish priests to a saving knowledge of Christ or at least saw it happen (Acts 6:7).
- Evangelized Antioch before Barnabus ever got there (Acts 11:20-21)
What a legacy of preaching and teaching! That last bullet is especially interesting. Mnason was from Cyprus (Barnabus’s home turf), so it’s likely Mnason evangelized the Greeks: “But some of them, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks as well, proclaiming the good news about the Lord Jesus. The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:20-21 BSB).
Still, we don’t know that for sure.
Before Paul’s conversion, he hunted down Christians to eradicate them. Was Mnason on his hit list? We don’t know. But that would make Acts 21:16 even more poignant when we meet this believer.
Mnason opens his house to accommodate Paul and his travel companions. Mnason provides a safe haven right before Paul starts the most arduous chapter of his life. Believers in Caesarea had already prophesied that Jerusalem’s Jews would bind Paul and hand him over to the Romans (Acts 21:10-12).
Picture Mnason encouraging and strengthening Paul … painting a panorama of all that had come before this and reminding Paul of how the Gospel is spreading. Mnason could speak firsthand of things Paul hadn’t experienced. No wonder Mnason means “memory.” Only that early Christian could have ministered to Paul at that time, in that way.
Mnason spent his life doing the right thing: serving God without regard for recognition. He never sacrificed integrity for celebrity.
Like Mnason, we may think our service and faithfulness to God don’t make a difference.
In those times, we’re tempted to listen to society that says live for the spectacular; be the first or be the best.
Friend, you do make a difference to God. He sees you when no one else does. Let Him sort the details of who gets credit when and for what. Just remain faithful.
Have you felt overlooked or unappreciated lately? If yes, I hope this blog encourages you. Please let me know. I answer every comment.