This week we’re going to see how the first Christian leaders brought the good news about Jesus to people who worshipped many gods. It doesn’t start out very well.
 Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet. He was crippled from birth and had never walked.  He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well,  said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and began walking.  And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!”  Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker.  And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds.  But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out,
(Acts 14:8-14 ESV)
This is very different from the story we told last week of Peter helping Gentiles, non-Jews, become followers of Jesus. That story included a man, Cornelius, who was already studying Judaism, and knew the stories that Christianity was built on. Most of all, he was committed to the idea that there was one God, creator of everything.
But this town, Lystra, was different. It was a newish settlement, with no synagogue, no Jews, no backstory to build on.
So Paul and Barnabas couldn’t start meeting people at the synagogue like they usually would. Instead they went to a very public place, where they know they’ll find people to listen. They are there for the same reason a beggar is there, maximum exposure to crowds.
But these lives come together in an incredible way, as Paul makes a very public display of healing the beggar, and that really attracts a crowd. The Bible’s wording suggests he shouts at the top of his voice for the man to stand up, to really make sure people know what’s happening.
Paul and Barnabas do this to talk about Jesus, but instead people start talking about them. They decide the two visitors must be gods.
This is a bit strange for us, but not that surprising. Their worldview is Pagan, where there are many gods, each with a particular way of intervening in the world, and giving particular benefits of worshipping that god.
They decide to add Paul and Barnabas to their Pantheon of gods. They are clearly powerful, they can heal, so not bad gods to have on your side.
Priest of Zeus was about to sacrifice bulls to them when Paul and Barnabas figure out what is happening, and they are so distressed they tore their clothes and ran to stop the thing from happening.
Question: How would our Canadian worldview lead us to interpret events like those described here?
Meeting with a Group? Your discussion questions are in this week’s Group Study Guide[permalink append=”#comments”]Discuss the Challenge[/permalink]
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