Today’s reading is very long! We continue on with Paul, Barnabas and John Mark as they move on in their first missionary journey. John mark leaves from Pamphylia and heads back to Jerusalem before we get to the second Antioch in Pisidia. This is not the same Antioch that sent them out but another location all together. This Antioch is actually in Galatia. We aren’t told why John Mark leaves but it will become an issue for Paul when considering who to take on future journeys.
Paul and Barnabas make a point of always starting their visits to each new city by presenting the gospel to the Jews first. So, as usual, they find themselves in the synagogue come the Sabbath. I find it quite interesting that the rulers of the synagogue asked them to speak. I would think that their fame would precede them and the religious leaders would want to avoid giving them a platform to teach from. Did this group know Paul from his early years, before becoming a Christian? What were they expecting them to say? Maybe it was simply standard practice to allow and encourage visiting ministers to share with the people.
They certainly got their money’s worth that day. Paul took them on an abbreviated trip through their history, right up to Jesus. I had to laugh at Paul’s comment concerning their 40 years wandering in the wilderness. “And for about forty years He put up with them in the wilderness” (verse 18). I’ve thought the same thing about their behavior and God’s patience in that time.
I notice that Paul focused mainly on the good points or at least only touched lightly on a few of Israel’s difficulties. He wanted these people to follow him to the conclusion of his sermon. He carefully brought them to the place where they would welcome the words of Jesus.
When it came time to speak of Jesus’ crucifixion Paull blamed those in Jerusalem and their rulers instead of all Jews. He also gave those in Jerusalem an excuse for their behavior; “because they did not recognize Him nor understand the utterances of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath” (verse 27). “They didn’t understand. They were too thick headed, not like you here.”
Paul doesn’t leave them shaking their heads at those in Jerusalem for their rejection of Jesus but quickly lets them know that what was done was actually fulfillment of prophecy. “These things had to be because God foretold it.”
“And now for the icing on the cake! God not only fulfilled prophecies concerning Jesus’ death but also about His resurrection.” “And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this He has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus” (verse 33). Here Paul proceeds to prove that Jesus alone was the one spoken of in the scriptures. I’m wondering if one of those scriptures was what was being read that day. Talk about a Holy Ghost setup!
Paul finished off by warning them not to be like those from Jerusalem. “Don’t be a scoffer because you will miss this wonderful gift; forgiveness of sins by Him for everyone who believes in Him.”
This group of Jews ate up every word Paul spoke and cried for more. Paul and Barnabas encouraged everyone who was hungry for the truth. But when the next Sabbath came around things turned ugly.
Those who had praised and welcomed the message last week were actively opposing it this week. Not because they saw things differently but because they were jealous that others were being told this same salvation story. They didn’t want anyone else in on their deal. THEY were the children of Abraham, not the rest of the city! How dare Paul and Barnabas share their Savior with the Gentiles! If they couldn’t have exclusive rights they would make sure NO ONE would believe Paul or Barnabas.
This was nothing new to Paul and Barnabas. They knew they would be rejected by the Jews but they also knew they had to try there first. “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles” (verse 46).
I like how they put the rejection right back on the Jews’ shoulders; “you judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life.” Their own judgement of Paul and Barnabas’ words condemned them. Without Jesus there is no eternal life. They didn’t just reject Paul’s words but Jesus Himself. They were unworthy of eternal life because of their own judgement.
The Gentiles were over the moon with excitement! They were more than willing to receive what God was offering. Many received eternal life and believed.
Paul and Barnabas expanded their sharing of the gospel to the whole region around Antioch. I’m wondering if that means the whole are of Galatia. Is this were the churches Paul writes to in Galatians was started?
The Jews were not about to let Paul and Barnabas continue unchecked. If they couldn’t have a monopoly then no one was going to get anything! They stirred up the “devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city” against Paul and Barnabas. They actually evicted them from the city! I wonder how they went about it. Were they pushed out physically? Did they refuse to do business with anyone listening to them? Did they have soldiers under their command?
However they accomplished their part they did NOT get away with it in God’s reckoning. Paul and Barnabas used the same model of testimony against this city that Jesus commanded His disciples in the beginning of their ministry. Paul and Barnabas shook the dust of that city from their feet as a sign of their rejection of the gospel. They WILL stand, or already have stood, in judgement by God for their rejection.
Paul and Barnabas were not discouraged by this rejection. They “were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” (verse 52). They continued on their mission trip, boldly sharing wherever they went.
Father God, thank You for Your plan of salvation. Thank You for offering it to me, a Gentile too. Thank You for the boldness of Your servants so that I can read Your words today. I’m so sorry You own turned against You.
I’m sorry some of my own children have turned away from You. If they TRULY understood You love in the beginning they never would have gone looking for something else. Forgive me for not showing them the truth better as they were growing up. I don’t know how to reach them but I am NOT willing to shake the dust of them off my feet. What I am willing to do is to place them, once again, in Your hands. Only You know what it is going to take to bring them back home. I’m sorry they were fickle too. You can forgive that too, when they are ready to seek Your forgiveness.