5/14/16 Paul & Barnabas, Or Zeus & Hermes?

They come to the town of Lystra first.  Seeing that it is a town of Gentiles, they waste no time in gathering the people together in the center of the town to hear the message of Jesus’ love and forgiveness.  The people are very superstitious, and they are worshippers of the Greek gods.  Paul delivers the message in Greek, the language common to the region and understood by most of the people here.  But the people aren’t sure what to make of it.  They talk amongst themselves, with some in the crowd leaving to mull over this new information in private.  Paul and Barnabas look around and see a man sitting at the side of the road nearby, holding a begging bowl.  They quietly make their way over to him and sit down on either side of him.  “Do you have anything to give me?” the man asks.  Paul looks at him intently, seeming to search his soul.  “How long have you had your infirmity?” he asks the man.  “From birth, sir,” the man replies.  “I have no strength in my feet and have never walked.”  Paul stands up, lifts his hands to Heaven, and prays silently, then commands in a strong voice, “In the Name of Jesus of Nazareth, our Messiah, stand up and walk!”  The man is so surprised that he actually finds himself obeying the command before he even realizes what he is doing.  Then, when he feels strength coming into his lower extremities and discovers that he can, indeed, do what Paul has just commanded him to do, he begins to leap with joy.  All the townspeople who remained in the center witness miracle, but their reaction is not what Paul and Barnabas expect.  A buzz begins, people talking excitedly in the Lycaonian language.  Paul and Barnabas do not understand this language, and so they can only watch as the noise of frenzied conversation grows louder.  “I hope they’re talking about Jesus and his amazing love that can set people free from any bond,” Paul says.  But what is actually being said is this:  “The gods are walking among us!  These men must be Zeus (pointing to Barnabas) and Hermes (pointing to Paul, believing that Paul must be Hermes because he makes the proclamations for Zeus).  What should we do?”  Everyone has his own opinion on the subject, but when the priest of the temple of Zeus comes forward, they all defer to him.  “Get oxen and flowers and meet me at the temple for a sacrifice to Zeus!” he says, and they scramble to comply.  Seeing the fruits of their labor and finally understanding what the people have been talking about, Paul and Barnabas are horrified.  Both of them tear their robes and run toward the people, shouting, “No!  You must not do this!  We are men like you, not gods!”  Paul continues, calling out, “Please, listen.  The Greek and Roman gods are not real.  They are statues made by men’s hands.  They have no real power.  But the God who made everything and everyone in the whole universe, He is worthy of worship.  He is alive and sees and hears all things.  Before this, He let all the different nations do things their own way, but He still showed through the blessings He gave to everyone in nature who He is and how much He loves His creation.”  Paul continues pleading with the people, trying to make them understand that he and Barnabas are just regular men like them, but it takes a lot of convincing before they agree not to make sacrifices to him and to Barnabas-Zeus.

 

Acts 14:8-18

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