THE WAR INTENSIFIES
"But then there was a split in public opinion, some siding with the Jews, some with the apostles. One day, learning that both the Jews and non-Jews had been organised by their leaders to beat them up, they escaped as best they could to the next towns -- Lyconia, Lystra, Derbe and that neighbourhood -- but then they were right back at it again, getting out the Message." Acts 14:4-7 (The Message).
What a life! Always on the run! But they had a divine commission to fulfil and a message to deliver and they could not afford to become faint-hearted about it. As long as there was new ground to break they pressed on, their hearts burning with a passion to make Jesus known. Fortunately for them, they never knew what lay around the next corner for them.
"There was a man in Lystra who couldn't walk. He sat there, crippled since the day of his birth. He heard Paul talking, and Paul, looking him in the eye, saw that he was ripe for God's work, ready to believe. So he said, loud enough for everyone to hear, 'Up on your feet!' The man was up in a flash -- jumped up and walked around as if he had been walking all his life." Acts 14:8-10 (The Message).
All in a day's work! Whether it was hearts or bodies God was healing, it was all miracle! Paul and Barnabas were on a mission for the kingdom of God and nothing would stop them. Imagine the thrill, in the midst of opposition and the threat of being killed, of seeing God at work like that -- a partnership between Him and them that they would not miss for anything in the world.
These two emissaries for the kingdom of God were in the thick of pagan society, surrounded by a culture of godless living and religious superstition and yet they were not deterred from their task of making Jesus known. His power through them was lighting up the darkness, bringing life to those who would believe. One man in the crowd showed a spark of faith and Paul pounced on his opportunity to rescue him from a life of useless disability.
One day Jesus purposefully took His disciples to a place no self-respecting Jew would ever want to visit -- equivalent to feasting one's eyes on the images in "Playboy" magazines -- Caesarea Philippi -- the red light district of Israel! In full view of the debauchery and sexual orgies on the go there He told them, 'On this rock I will build my church.' So confident was He in His power to change people's lives that He could announce it in the worst possible circumstances.
Paul and Barnabas were personally involved in the fulfilment of Jesus' promise. No matter where they proclaimed their message, God's power was there to transform lives. A crippled man, deformed from birth, healed in an instant; history repeating itself in a pagan city! Peter and John had seen the same thing happen at the Beautiful Gate of the temple in Jerusalem with surprising results -- the outbreak of opposition against them from the Jewish hierarchy.
Paul and Barnabas were in for a surprise too. Initially it was not rejection but worship!
"When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they went wild, calling out in their Lyconian dialect, 'The gods have come down! These men are gods!' They called Barnabas "Zeus" and Paul "Hermes" (since Paul did most of the speaking). The priest of the local Zeus shrine got up a parade -- bulls and banners and people lined right up to the gates, ready for the ritual of sacrifice." Acts 14:11-13 (The Message).
In their pagan ignorance, these people responded in the only way they knew. A miracle had happened, so it must be the work of a god. They mistakenly thought that Paul and Barnabas were gods, not understanding that God really did come, in the person of His son, Jesus. A showdown was about to happen, a clash between the kingdoms of darkness and light. Satan was snatching every opportunity he could to destroy these men because they were a constant threat to his unchallenged rule over whole world.
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