5/15/16 The Angry Jews Catch Up With Paul

The Jews of Antioch and Iconium, who want Paul and Barnabas dead because of the influence they have had over the Gentiles of the region, finally catch up to the two men in Lystra.  The people of Lystra do a 180 – whereas they were ready to proclaim Paul and Barnabas gods and make sacrifices to them just a short time ago, now they are willing to turn the men over to the Jews to be stoned.   The Jews, playing on the fear of demons that they know is prevalent in worshippers of the Roman gods, have managed to convince the majority of the townspeople that Paul and Barnabas are really demons trying to persuade people to join their ranks through deception.  Though the two men have been able to win over some of the townspeople, it is a very small group of believers.  Seeing an angry mob led by Jews of Antioch and Iconium coming toward them, Paul jumps to his feet.  “Barnabas, run!  Get out of here and hide until this blows over.  If God wills it, I will join you as soon as I can.”  “How can I leave you alone to face this, my brother?” Barnabas replies, jumping to his feet as well.  “I deserve this.  You don’t.  Now go!” Paul says, pushing Barnabas away.  Barnabas knows the stubbornness of his friend.  “At least try to get away with me,” he pleads, backing away from the oncoming throng of people.  But Paul pushes Barnabas again, shaking his head furiously.  “No!  This will give you time to escape.  God will protect me, if he wants me to remain in this work.  If not, I will be with Him.  There is no losing here.  Go.”  Barnabas sees the wisdom in his friend’s decision, and, nodding, flees the scene, praying fervently as he goes.  He manages to escape just as the mob reaches Paul and begins pelting him with large stones.  Paul has a sense of déjà vu, remembering how he watched smugly as Stephen was subjected to this same punishment in Jerusalem.  The stones drive him to his knees, pain radiating through his entire body.  Finally a particularly large stone strikes him in the head and he falls to the ground, unconscious.  The angry people keep throwing stones, wanting to make sure he is dead, until one of the leaders of the group calls out to them.  “That’s enough.  Drag him out of the city and then let’s go home.  We’ve done what we came for.  Even if he isn’t quite dead yet, he will be soon.”  Satisfied, the people turn to go, leaving a few behind to deposit Paul at the entrance to the little town.  He is bruised, bleeding, and mercifully unconscious, but at least he is still alive.  As soon as they feel it is safe to do so, the people of Lystra who have been lovingly ministered to by Paul and Barnabas over the past few weeks quietly slip out of their homes and go to the place where Paul is lying, huddled in a heap in the dust.  They are afraid he is dead, but seeing the rising and falling of his chest, they hurry to gather some tree branches together to make a pallet to carry him on.  They take him to the nearest home and tend to his wounds, praying as they work.  Miraculously, just as they finish applying salve and bandages, Paul awakens and gets up, slowly and with obvious pain, but of his own volition.  Nobody expected him to be able to move, let alone get up and walk.  He turns to face the people who have taken care of him, wincing, and says, “My brothers and sisters, I owe you my life.  Please, grow together in your faith, and be in prayer daily to our Messiah, Jesus.  I must go to Barnabas now, but as soon as I am able, I will return to you.  Thank you for all that you have done for me.”  With that, he goes into the city to gather his provisions and heads out to find Barnabas.  After a few long hours of painful travel, he finds Barnabas waiting for him not too far beyond the border of the town on the opposite side.  Barnabas examines his injuries and helps his friend settle in for the night.  The next morning, they set out together for the next town, Derbe.  It is only about twenty miles away, but for Paul, it seems like an eternity before they reach the town.  Exhausted, he and Barnabas make camp just outside the town for the night, wanting a good night’s sleep before jumping into their work once again.


Acts 14:19-20


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