For an introduction to this series, click here.
June 14, 2007
This chapter details the further journeys of Paul and Barnabas. They followed the pattern of preaching in a synagogue, and usually they made several converts and made the rest of the congregation mad. Then those who were mad would get Paul and Barnabas thrown out of town. The first place Paul and Barnabas came to in this chapter was Iconium. This exact pattern happened there.
Next they came to Lystra, where they experienced more extreme reactions. When they came into town they saw a crippled man, and Paul healed him. This really got the crowd going:
"And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, 'The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!' Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, 'Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.' Even with these words they scarcely restrained the people from offering sacrifice to them." (14:11-18)
This was an impossibly good reaction. So good, in fact, that it turned into a negative. They had to keep the people from going overboard in their excitement, and they had to get the people re-focused on Jesus instead of worshiping their false gods in the name of Paul and Barnabas. Paul and Barnabas were not concerned about drawing a big crowd and putting on a show. They were more concerned about preaching the gospel of Jesus. I wonder what some of the publicity hucksters that call themselves preachers today would do in this situation. I have a sneaking suspicion that they wouldn't care that the people would be worshiping another god, as long as they were giving them money and praise at the same time.
But then things went from crazy high to crazy low. In a hurry: "But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe." (14:19-20, ESV)
This shows you how fickle people can be. First they thought they were gods, and then they turned on them and stoned Paul. Whether Paul really was dead and God resurrected him or whether Paul just appeared to be dead we aren't entirely sure. There are some who say that this is the experience when Paul writes about in Corinthians when he saw the "third heaven." I don't know, personally, and really it is not that critical either way. But either way Paul got up and went right back to his ministry. Paul was not going to be stopped. I doubt if I would have his determination.