When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, â€œThe gods have come down to us in human form!â€ Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: â€œFriends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them. In the past, he let all nations go their own way. Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.â€ Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them.Then, the very next verse (14:19) introduces people who offer a different opinion about Paul and this radically shifts the crowd to murder.
Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead.What a fast shift in response! We would do well to anticipate both reactions to our own faith today. Maybe not to the extremes we see here, but certainly this dichotomy. You may be loved for your faith in Jesus, or it might cause you to suffer. And you can go from one to the other seemingly without any warning. The crowd is a fickle audience. But what I find most moving about this account is the reactions of others didn’t shape the faithfulness of Paul and Barnabas. They didn’t believe the hype about themselves (well then, maybe I am Hermes!) nor did they feel dejected when the crowd turned. We might take the following conclusion away from this for us today: The reactions to our faith should never determine the level of our faithfulness.
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