The events of Acts 14 as they might have appeared to an eyewitness.
A dead man passed me on the way to the market this morning, or at least I thought he was dead. Yesterday, his bloody and broken body had been tossed outside the city into the garbage heaps. Yet, as he walked beside me in the city today, I knew it was him. His short, stocky body, balding head, and protruding nose easily identified him as Paul—the healer in the temple, the supposed god Zeus, and the object of yesterday’s stoning.
Despite losing large amounts of blood and being presumed dead, Paul walked through the city, passing me on his way towards the city gates. A few weeks ago I would not have believed that a man who had been stoned could have walked through the streets the next day. I would not have believed that such a healing could have occurred. But I saw another healing in our city a few days ago that made me believe that I passed a living person today, not a ghost.
Earlier this week, Paul taught a large crowd, including a poor beggar, about his faith. The pauper, with his small, withered feet, sat and listened as Paul spoke about his religion. The beggar’s dull toga, ripped and dusty, hung loosely about his thin frame. Yet his brown eyes were full of emotion and riveted to Paul’s face. His whole body leaned forward as if he were mesmerized by Paul’s words. To my surprise, Paul walked over to this beggar and commanded him, “Stand up straight.” Jumping to his feet, the pauper began to walk around. When I glanced down at his feet, I noticed that the withered feet had been transformed into healthy, muscular feet.
Immediately, I began hearing whispers around me. “This man, this healer, he must be Zeus.” The whispers grew to shouts of praise and adoration for Paul, who the crowd believed to be the god Zeus. Paul’s helper, a man named Barnabas, was assumed to be Hermes, Zeus’s helper. Several men and women bowed in front of Paul and Barnabas.
The woman beside me told her children, “Bow down now. Last time Zeus and Hermes visited, they flooded the land and killed those who refused to honor them.”
The boys chanted in unison, “Zeus, we honor you.”
The older son spoke to his mother, “Let me run to the priest in Zeus’s temple and tell him that Zeus is here!”
She smiled and patted him on the shoulder. “Go ahead.” His brown sandals hit the earth in rapid motion and the dust rose to his knees as he ran towards the temple.
In the midst of the people’s praise, Paul and Barnabas ripped their clothing. The tassels on their robes swayed back and forth as Paul and Barnabas tugged at their garments. Instead of smiles of pleasures, their faces turned bright red and Paul called out, “Stop! Why are you doing this? We’re people just like you are.”
As he talked, the priest from Zeus’s temple arrived with healthy, fat bulls adorned with olive wreaths around their necks. The priest’s presence and the bellowing of the bulls caused a huge commotion in the crowd. People resumed their worship of Paul and rose to their feet to help with the sacrifice.
Paul called to the crowd to listen to him. He firmly denied that he was a god and explained that his religion worshipped the Creator, the one true God. Paul explained that the Creator wanted to bless the people in our area. The crowd finally relented, and the priest led the bulls away.
I let out a sigh of relief and shook my head. The sullen, yet confused, crowd began to disperse. However, the city became agitated soon afterwards when a group of Jewish believers from Antioch and Iconium arrived. They convinced the people of the city that Paul and Barnabas were troublemakers and worthy of the death penalty.
While Paul and Barnabas were teaching in the countryside, this group of Jewish men incited a mob riot and seized Paul. Several of the men took him to the top of a hill and pushed him down. The rest of the crowd waited below, armed with rocks. As his crumpled body sank into the dust, he tried to get up. However, the crowd began throwing stones at him. His large nose was hit by a massive rock and he fell backwards into a heap. The rocks continued to beat on his body until he ceased to move and the blood pooled around him in a dark circle.
Someone in the crowd yelled, “Don’t leave this trash at the bottom of the hill. Throw it outside the city.” Two large, burly men grabbed his arms and legs and carried him out the city. We all thought Paul was dead, at least until this morning. Somehow the same healing power that transformed the feet of a paralyzed man also transformed a dead man.
8 In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked. 9 He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed 10 and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.
11 When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” 12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. 13 The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them.
14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: 15 “Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them. 16 In the past, he let all nations go their own way. 17 Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” 18 Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them.
19 Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. 20 But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.
- Barnabas and Paul in Lystra (thingspaulandluke.wordpress.com)
- Concluding the First Missionary Journey (smoodock45.wordpress.com)