Note from Jesus
In today’s verses, Luke writes about the last part of Paul and Barnabas’ first missionary journey. As you saw yesterday, they developed a strategic rhythm in sharing the gospel. They would share My message first in the synagogues with Jews and God-fearers. Then, when resistance and opposition mounted, they would go to non-Jews in that same city. The methodology was quite effective. However, it brought a lot of resistance among some in the Jewish community:
Finally the Jews and outsiders who opposed them joined forces and enlisted the political leaders in their plan to beat and stone Paul and Barnabas. They learned of the plan and escaped to Lystra and Derbe in Lycaonia, and the surrounding countryside, where they continued proclaiming the good news.
This resistance, even when in the form of persecution, did not stop Barnabas and Paul. The power of the Holy Spirit and the joy of My grace buoyed them. Furthermore, the resistance did not keep additional people from believing their message.
Along the way, Barnabas and Paul met some challenges that were quite different from the ones of their Jewish upbringing. In places where superstition and false religion were the customs, Barnabas and Paul found their miracles didn’t always point people to Me. Instead, the miracles sometimes created confusion and false worship of the miracle workers. Rather than accept the worship and adulation of the crowds, Paul and Barnabas taught the truth and pointed the people to Me:
Friends! No! No! Don’t do this! [That is, don’t worship us, Paul and Barnabas.] We’re just humans like all of you! We’re not here to be worshiped! We’re here to bring you good news — good news that you should turn from these worthless forms of worship and instead serve the living God, the God Who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that they contain.
Soon, My faithful emissaries, Barnabas and Paul, were facing attacks from hostile non-believing Jews, non-Jews who did not understand their message, and political leaders who were incited by leading Jewish officials to oppose My messengers. To prepare the new believers for what was ahead, Barnabas and Paul did two very important things. First, they warned these new believers that they must face “many persecutions as we enter the kingdom of God.” Second, they appointed leaders — godly older men called elders — to help guide these new communities of believers. When they returned to Antioch (in Syria) where they began their mission efforts, they reported on the great work We — Father, Son, and Spirit — had led them to do and empowered them to accomplish.
Verses to Live
As you read the verses below, a new era in the life of My people and a new era in sharing My message had fully begun. Now there were disciples of different nationalities, cultures, and languages coming into My family. This diversity was a glorious beginning. However, many roadblocks, difficulties, hardships, and persecutions lay ahead. But nothing could stop the advancement of the good message of the Father’s grace. That message focused on what I had done in My life, teaching, death, burial, resurrection, exaltation and sending of the Spirit. This message was empowered and validated by the Holy Spirit.
This first mission of Barnabas and Paul wasn’t easy. But when they returned, they could truthfully say, “Our first mission is completed!”
In Lystra they [Paul and Barnabas] met a man who had been crippled since birth; his feet were completely useless. He listened to Paul speak, and Paul could see in this man’s face that he had faith to be healed.
Stand up on your own two feet, man!
The man jumped up and walked! When the crowds saw this, they started shouting in Lycaonian.
The gods have come down to us! They’ve come in human form!
They decided that Barnabas was Zeus and Paul was Hermes (since he was the main speaker). Before they knew it, the priest of Zeus, whose temple was prominent in that city, came to the city gates with oxen and garlands of flowers so the Lycaonians could offer sacrifices in worship to Paul and Barnabas! When they heard of this, Paul and Barnabas were beside themselves with frustration — they ripped their tunics as an expression of disapproval and rushed out into the crowd.
Paul and Barnabas (shouting):
Friends! No! No! Don’t do this! We’re just humans like all of you! We’re not here to be worshiped! We’re here to bring you good news — good news that you should turn from these worthless forms of worship and instead serve the living God, the God Who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that they contain. Through all previous generations, God has allowed all the nations to follow their own customs and religions, but even then God revealed Himself by doing good to you — giving you rain for your crops and fruitful harvests season after season, filling your stomachs with food and your hearts with joy.
In spite of these words, they were barely able to keep the crowds from making sacrifices to them.
Then unbelieving Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and incited the crowds against the Lord’s emissaries. The crowds turned on Paul, stoned him, dragged him out of the city, and left him there, thinking he was dead. As the disciples gathered around him, he suddenly rose to his feet and returned to the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe. After they proclaimed the good news there and taught many disciples, they returned to some of the cities they had recently visited — Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch in Pisidia. In each place, they brought strength to the disciples, encouraging them to remain true to the faith.
Paul and Barnabas:
We must go through many persecutions as we enter the kingdom of God.
In each church, they would appoint leaders, pray and fast together, and entrust them to the Lord in Whom they had come to believe.
They then passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. They preached their message in Perga and then went to the port of Attalia. There they set sail for Antioch, where they were first entrusted to the grace of God for the mission they had now completed. They called the church together when they arrived and reported all God had done with and through them, how God had welcomed outsiders through the doorway of faith. They stayed with the disciples in Antioch for quite a while.
Response in Prayer
O Father, I want to have the same joyful courage in my time as Paul and Barnabas demonstrated. I know that living the values of Your kingdom and sharing Your grace with others will not always be appreciated. However, I also know that the world needs these kingdom values. I know that so many need to discover Your saving grace. Help me please, dear Lord, to know how to share your message effectively and not worry about the hardships that may come from bringing Your grace to the unbelieving world. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
‘A Year with Jesus’ is written by Phil Ware.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from The Voice™. © 2008 by Ecclesia Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved.