Acts 14 (New Living Translation)
Paul and Barnabas in Iconium
1 The same thing happened in Iconium. Paul and Barnabas went to the Jewish synagogue and preached with such power that a great number of both Jews and Greeks became believers. 2 Some of the Jews, however, spurned God’s message and poisoned the minds of the Gentiles against Paul and Barnabas. 3 But the apostles stayed there a long time, preaching boldly about the grace of the Lord. And the Lord proved their message was true by giving them power to do miraculous signs and wonders. 4 But the people of the town were divided in their opinion about them. Some sided with the Jews, and some with the apostles.
Paul and friends stay in a town as long as they can, to establish the believers and ground them strongly in their faith, for they all know that opposition will come.
5 Then a mob of Gentiles and Jews, along with their leaders, decided to attack and stone them. 6 When the apostles learned of it, they fled to the region of Lycaonia—to the towns of Lystra and Derbe and the surrounding area. 7 And there they preached the Good News.
Paul and Barnabas in Lystra and Derbe
8 While they were at Lystra, Paul and Barnabas came upon a man with crippled feet. He had been that way from birth, so he had never walked. He was sitting 9 and listening as Paul preached. Looking straight at him, Paul realized he had faith to be healed.
10 So Paul called to him in a loud voice, “Stand up!” And the man jumped to his feet and started walking.
11 When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in their local dialect, “These men are gods in human form!” 12 They decided that Barnabas was the Greek god Zeus and that Paul was Hermes, since he was the chief speaker.
The god Hermes was the messenger of the gods, so he would be the one talking.
Psalm 95:3 (English Standard Version)
For the LORD is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
13 Now the temple of Zeus was located just outside the town. So the priest of the temple and the crowd brought bulls and wreaths of flowers to the town gates, and they prepared to offer sacrifices to the apostles.
14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard what was happening, they tore their clothing in dismay and ran out among the people, shouting, 15 “Friends, why are you doing this? We are merely human beings—just like you! We have come to bring you the Good News that you should turn from these worthless things and turn to the living God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. 16 In the past he permitted all the nations to go their own ways, 17 but he never left them without evidence of himself and his goodness. For instance, he sends you rain and good crops and gives you food and joyful hearts.”
No soft sell here! Paul calls their gods “worthless things” and urges them to turn to the “living God.” And the rain and good crops and joy that they thought came from Zeus — all of it really comes from God!
18 But even with these words, Paul and Barnabas could scarcely restrain the people from sacrificing to them.
In his book Metamorphoses, Ovid tells the tale of an old married couple, Baucis and Philemon, who were the only ones in their village to welcome the gods Zeus and Hermes when they came disguised as poor men. This story was well-known in Paul’s day, especially since Paul was in the area where Ovid said this event had occurred.
“Zeus and Hermes came disguised as ordinary peasants and began asking the people of the town for a place to sleep during that night.
“To a thousand houses did they go, asking for lodging and for rest. A thousand houses did the bots fasten against them.” Finally they came to Baucis and Philemon’s rustic and simple cottage. Though the couple were poor, they showed more pity than their rich neighbors, where “all the doors bolted and no word of kindness given, so wicked were the people of that land.” After serving the two guests food and wine, which Ovid depicts with pleasure in the details, Baucis noticed that although she had refilled her guest’s beechwood cups many times, the wine pitcher was still full. Realizing that her guests were in fact gods, she and her husband “raised their hands in supplication and implored indulgence for their simple home and fare.” Philemon thought of catching and killing the goose that guarded their house and making it into a meal for the guests. But when Philemon went to catch the goose, it ran onto Zeus’s lap for safety. Zeus said that they did not need to slay the goose and that they should leave the town. Zeus said that he was going to destroy the town and all the people who had turned him away and not provided due hospitality. He said Baucis and Philemon should climb the mountain with him and not turn back until they reached the top.
“After climbing the mountain to the summit (“as far as an arrow could shoot in one pull”), Baucis and Philemon looked back on the town and saw that it had been destroyed by a flood. However, Zeus had turned Baucis and Philemon’s cottage into an ornate temple. The couple was also granted a wish; they chose to stay together forever and to be guardians of the temple. They also requested that when it came time for one of them to die, the other would die as well. Upon their death, they were changed into an intertwining pair of trees, one oak and one linden, standing in the deserted boggy terrain.”
19 Then some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowds to their side. They stoned Paul
How fickle the crowds are! One minute they are calling Paul a god, the next, stoning him.
As for Paul — did he think of Stephen, and his own role in Stephen’s death?
and dragged him out of town, thinking he was dead. 20 But as the believers gathered around him, he got up and went back into the town. The next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe.
Paul and Barnabas Return to Antioch of Syria
21 After preaching the Good News in Derbe and making many disciples, Paul and Barnabas returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch of Pisidia, 22 where they strengthened the believers. They encouraged them to continue in the faith, reminding them that we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.
from This Day with the Master,
by Dennis F. Kinlaw
THE COURAGEOUS SPIRIT
One of the characteristics of the early church was courage. The Twelve crept fearfully into the upper room to protect themselves from the authorities, but they came out on Pentecost boldly proclaiming the risen Christ to everyone they could reach. Your knees may knock together for a time as you go out into ministry, but that’s all right. Keep on going. Do the thing Christ asks you to do, and he will fill you with his Spirit and therefore with courage. The courage comes only when you act.
The first Christians became unstoppable. The world had no categories to deal with people like these. They did not fear prison, and they did not fear death. The world had no weapons to use against them that could succeed (Isaiah 54:17).
On Paul’s first missionary journey the citizens of Lystra stoned him so badly that the Christians there believed him to be dead. However, he was revived and continued on to preach in Derbe. Then, instead of returning to safety, he went back to Lystra to check on the believers. He was anxious to go back to where he had been stoned and beaten and encourage them by telling them what a marvelous thing it is to be a Christian. He returned to Lystra to strengthen the believers and encourage them to continue in the faith. Then he went on his way from Lystra, rejoicing.
Do we know anything about that kind of courage? The same Spirit who was in Paul can be in you and me.
23 Paul and Barnabas also appointed elders in every church. With prayer and fasting, they turned the elders over to the care of the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. 24 Then they traveled back through Pisidia to Pamphylia. 25 They preached the word in Perga, then went down to Attalia.
26 Finally, they returned by ship to Antioch of Syria, where their journey had begun. The believers there had entrusted them to the grace of God to do the work they had now completed. 27 Upon arriving in Antioch, they called the church together and reported everything God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles, too. 28 And they stayed there with the believers for a long time.
“Lord, I Offer My Life to You” by Don Moen.
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
Images courtesy of:
Zeus and Hermes. http://www.alexanderstoddart.com/images/sideimage_contact.jpg
Baucis and Philemon entertaining. http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_Oq8Hy5YMraw/SDIJn6S-5JI/AAAAAAAAATI/uZWo2u44Me4/s1600-h/Baucis-Philemon.jpg
the lion gets courage, from The Wizard of Oz. http://matchstic.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/courage.jpg