8In Lystra there was a man who had been born with crippled feet and had never been able to walk.9The man was listening to Paul speak, when Paul saw that he had faith in Jesus and could be healed. So he looked straight at the man10and shouted, “Stand up!” The man jumped up and started walking around.
11When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they yelled out in the language of Lycaonia, “The gods have turned into humans and have come down to us!”12The people then gave Barnabas the name Zeus, and they gave Paul the name Hermes, because he did the talking.
13The temple of Zeus was near the entrance to the city. Its priest and the crowds wanted to offer a sacrifice to Barnabas and Paul. So the priest brought some bulls and flowers to the city gates.14When the two apostles found out about this, they tore their clothes in horror and ran to the crowd, shouting:
15Why are you doing this? We are humans just like you. Please give up all this foolishness. Turn to the living God, who made the sky, the earth, the sea, and everything in them.16In times past, God let each nation go its own way.17But he showed that he was there by the good things he did. God sends rain from heaven and makes your crops grow. He gives food to you and makes your hearts glad.
18Even after Paul and Barnabas had said all this, they could hardly keep the people from offering a sacrifice to them.
19Some Jewish leaders from Antioch and Iconium came and turned the crowds against Paul. They hit him with stones and dragged him out of the city, thinking he was dead.20But when the Lord’s followers gathered around Paul, he stood up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas went to Derbe.
Sometimes the greatest barrier to people hearing the good news of Jesus is not their outright rejection of it. It is rather their fascination or preoccupation with outward expressions of God’s power without grasping the truth of which those acts testify. In Lystra Paul interrupted his sermon in order to recognize a man who was dramatically crippled since birth. The man “had faith to be healed” (v 9) and so Paul invited him to embrace the healing that was his in Christ. Based on the prevalent folklore in the region the crowd rushed to the conclusion that the preachers were the Greek gods Zeus and Hermes. The commotion grew. When he heard about it Paul burst out with the message that he and Barnabas were only human beings bearing witness to the greatness of the sole God in the universe and testifying to the claims of Christ. When Jews came from Antioch (four or five days’ walk) and Iconium they stirred up the crowd, and changed them from worshippers to executioners.
People are more than willing to accommodate the message of Jesus to their settled beliefs. As long as Jesus does not demand a radical change in lifestyle or thinking he remains palatable and safe. When people are confronted with their need to make major life adjustments in order to respond to Jesus, they too often cannot stomach that. Paul’s message is that there is only one God and he is a living God, and the creator of all that exists.
This same God is Lord of history. And this God is full of goodness and grace. But we come to know him on his terms, not on our terms.
Good and gracious God, We bow before you as Lord of the universe. We come to you through Jesus alone. In his name we are yours, Amen.