1 The same thing happened in Iconium. Paul and Barnabas went to the Jewish synagogue and preached with such power that a great number of both Jews and Greeks became believers. 2 Some of the Jews, however, spurned God’s message and poisoned the minds of the Gentiles against Paul and Barnabas. 3 But the apostles stayed there a long time, preaching boldly about the grace of the Lord. And the Lord proved their message was true by giving them power to do miraculous signs and wonders. 4 But the people of the town were divided in their opinion about them. Some sided with the Jews, and some with the apostles.
5 Then a mob of Gentiles and Jews, along with their leaders, decided to attack and stone them. 6 When the apostles learned of it, they fled to the region of Lycaonia—to the towns of Lystra and Derbe and the surrounding area. 7 And there they preached the Good News.
8 While they were at Lystra, Paul and Barnabas came upon a man with crippled feet. He had been that way from birth, so he had never walked. He was sitting 9 and listening as Paul preached. Looking straight at him, Paul realized he had faith to be healed. 10 So Paul called to him in a loud voice, “Stand up!” And the man jumped to his feet and started walking.
11 When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in their local dialect, “These men are gods in human form!” 12 They decided that Barnabas was the Greek god Zeus and that Paul was Hermes, since he was the chief speaker. 13 Now the temple of Zeus was located just outside the town. So the priest of the temple and the crowd brought bulls and wreaths of flowers to the town gates, and they prepared to offer sacrifices to the apostles.
14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard what was happening, they tore their clothing in dismay and ran out among the people, shouting, 15 “Friends, why are you doing this? We are merely human beings—just like you! We have come to bring you the Good News that you should turn from these worthless things and turn to the living God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. 16 In the past he permitted all the nations to go their own ways, 17 but he never left them without evidence of himself and his goodness. For instance, he sends you rain and good crops and gives you food and joyful hearts.” 18 But even with these words, Paul and Barnabas could scarcely restrain the people from sacrificing to them.
In today’s passage of scripture, Paul and Barnabas went from leading a group of Jews and Gentiles to the Lord, to fleeing for their lives, to being praised as gods. After many ups and downs it would have been nice—and even a bit amusing—to take some time and accept the praise of these confused people. After they finished preaching, they could have enjoyed a barbeque in their honor at the city gates. But they didn’t. In fact they were so mortified when they learned what was happening that they “tore their clothes in dismay” (v. 14-15).
Paul and Barnabas did a lot of preaching and traveling in the name of the Lord. They were bringing a new and radical message to the Jews and Gentiles alike. So radical that for the first time a mob of Jews and Gentiles finally agreed on something; they wanted to stone these two apostles (v.5)! Even through this chaos the Lord welcomed new believers into the Kingdom of Heaven because of the faithfulness of these two apostles.
Why did these people believe? The answer may be simpler than you think. They believed because the Gospel is real, and they believed because Paul and Barnabas believed. “We have come to bring you the Good News that you should turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them” (v.15). No matter what challenges you face this week, give all glory and honor to the Lord. And if you go to any barbeques, make sure people don’t call you Zeus.