By Tyson Thorne

August 20, 2014

GoesUnpunished large

When the crowds witnessed Paul healing the lame man (Acts 14.10), they immediately assumed Paul and Barnabas were the Greek/Roman gods Zeus and Hermes. Someone immediately ran to the temple of Zeus just outside the city and told him everything that had happened. The temple priest prepared sacrifices and gifts for the two “gods” and brought them to the city so they could honor their gods.

Notice how different the reaction of the apostles is compared to Herod in Acts 12. Herod made no attempt to dissuade the crowd from thinking he was a god, but Paul and Barnabas rent their robes (a symbol of grief) and immediately declared they were not gods but mortals like them. They called the statues and temple of Zeus a “worthless thing” and proclaimed a monotheistic God to them, namely Jesus the Messiah. Yet even with these words it was difficult to keep the crowd from offering sacrifices to them. And that’s when the situation went from bad to worse.

The enemies of The Way that had followed the apostles from Pisidian Antioch and Iconium arrived at the city and took advantage of the confusion. While Luke doesn’t tell us how, they managed to turn the crowd on Barnabas and Paul. I imagine these wicked men told the crowd that the two Jesus-followers had come to their town also, and taught against their religion as well. With great fervor the crowd stoned Paul (perhaps they weren’t sure about Barnabas yet since Paul had been doing all the talking). Thinking they had killed him, some men from the city dragged his body outside the gates and left him for dead. Paul’s body was likely tossed into a small landfill where the bodies of those who died in poverty were taken.

Some suggest Paul may have actually died and was raised to life, but Luke makes it clear that the crowds only presumed Paul was dead. Those who believed in Jesus because of the teachings of Barnabas and Paul went out and surrounded Paul’s body, probably attending to him until he came to. Once recovered sufficiently Paul went back into the city and retrieved Barnabas. The two left the next day for greener pastures in Derbe.

Thinking Paul was dead, the treacherous men that had dogged the apostles footsteps left for home, leaving the two servants of God at peace in Derbe. There Paul and Barnabas had a fruitful ministry and planned the next leg of their journey.

Many Christians believe that by trusting and obeying God they deserve a life free of pain and suffering. This passage shows in dramatic fashion what a mistake such a belief is. Paul showed great faithfulness, giving up everything in order to tell others about Jesus. Even so, he suffered unimaginable persecution. He experienced trouble, pain, hatred, imprisonment and more. So why would one ever want to follow Jesus? Because those with faith understand that this life is short, and that the promise of eternal life is greater than anything we might suffer in this one. If you believe that the blessing of God is a trouble free life, you have missed the point of what following God is all about.

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