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Acts 14:6-18 – Paul and Barnabas in Lystra

Summary

Paul and Barnabas go to Lystra and heal a paralyzed man. The local population, whose language Paul and Barnabas do not know, believes it has been visited by the gods Zeus and Hermes in disguise and tries to worship the two evangelists, who barely succeed in restraining the people.

Analysis

Paul and Barnabas travel to Lystra, an inland city in Asia Minor. They do not know the local language, nor do the local inhabitants speak Greek. But, as Peter and John did before them (3:1-10), in a public place they heal a man crippled from birth. The crowds, wisely from their religious point of view, believe that they have been visited by the gods in disguise and proceed to treat Paul and Barnabas accordingly--with a sacrifice offered to them. Paul and Barnabas barely stop them from engaging in this blasphemy, but finally the evangelists succeed. The cry of Paul and Barnabas, "We are mortals just like you," is almost the reverse of the cry Herod had accepted in 12:22, "the voice of a god, and not of a mortal!" We see the wisdom and piety of Christians compared with both Herod's pride and the ignorance of the Lystrans. Again readers are reminded that it is not the Christians who create public uproar, but first the locals and then a group of traveling Jews who incite a riot in which Paul is nearly killed.

Acts 14:6-18

6the apostles* learned of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country; 7and there they continued proclaiming the good news.

Paul and Barnabas in Lystra and Derbe

8 In Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet and had never walked, for he had been crippled from birth. 9He listened to Paul as he was speaking. And Paul, looking at him intently and seeing that he had faith to be healed, 10said in a loud voice, ‘Stand upright on your feet.’ And the man* sprang up and began to walk. 11When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, ‘The gods have come down to us in human form!’ 12Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 13The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city,* brought oxen and garlands to the gates; he and the crowds wanted to offer sacrifice. 14When the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting, 15‘Friends,* why are you doing this? We are mortals just like you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. 16In past generations he allowed all the nations to follow their own ways; 17yet he has not left himself without a witness in doing good—giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, and filling you with food and your hearts with joy.’ 18Even with these words, they scarcely restrained the crowds from offering sacrifice to them.

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10 February 2011

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