May 22, 2018
Rev. Sarah TevisTownes
Bible Study Session # 19
This week begins our new series, “Be the Church,” which includes directives like “Care for the poor,” “Reject racism,” and “Forgive often.” The first in our series will be “Love God,” and the text will come from Acts 14:8-20. The text tells the story of a comical misunderstanding, in which Paul and Barnabas are confused for gods. Paul and Barnabas do exactly what they’re told to do at Pentecost – they go out and live out the message of God’s love with Spirit and generosity! Unfortunately, when they heal a man in Lystra, instead of getting across how powerful God is, Paul and Barnabas get confused for gods themselves! Locals start a parade and prepare sacrifices to lay at Paul and Barnabas’ feet, all to the horror of Paul and Barnabas, who are in Lystra, in part, to preach against sacrificing food to idols. Paul and Barnabas end the festivities, but just barely. Later, the ruckus leads control-minded leaders to turn the crowds on Paul and Barnabas, who then stone their former heroes and throw them out of the city.
How did things go so wrong so quickly? Twice!? Do we suffer from the same misunderstandings in our modern era? Do we put the credit (or blame) on individuals for extraordinary (or awful) results? Do mob mentalities, social media, or peer pressure really turn opinions that quickly? How can we be more discerning about what “bandwagons” we jump onto? How can we do good work and point people to God, instead of to ourselves (or even to the church itself)?
Bible Study Scripture
Acts 14: 8-20
New Revised Standard Version
8 In Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet and had never walked, for he had been crippled from birth. 9 He listened to Paul as he was speaking. And Paul, looking at him intently and seeing that he had faith to be healed, 10 said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And the man sprang up and began to walk. 11 When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” 12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 13 The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates; he and the crowds wanted to offer sacrifice. 14 When the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting, 15 “Friends, why are you doing this? We are mortals just like you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. 16 In past generations, God allowed all the nations to follow their own ways; 17 yet God has not left without a witness in doing good—giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, and filling you with food and your hearts with joy.” 18 Even with these words, they scarcely restrained the crowds from offering sacrifice to them.
19 But Jews came there from Antioch and Iconium and won over the crowds. Then they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. 20 But when the disciples surrounded him, he got up and went into the city. The next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe.