On to the next leg of Paul and Barnabas’ missionary journey. They shook the dust of Antioch off their feet and headed for Iconium. This stop lasts for quite a while.
I’m going to make a confession to you. I miss Jesus’ parables. I find it hard to say much beyond what is written in the scriptures in our study. I miss being able to dive in and hunt for deeper understanding. I have a few questions that today’s reading sparks but they are ones that can’t be answered until I get to meet these people “face to face.” More bench time questions.
I want to share my questions and observations anyway so here goes.
The first thing I want to know is if Paul used the same sermon he gave the first time in Antioch. That one got the Jews very interested in what he had to say. If not, what did he teach on? We know he taught in the Jewish synagogue and it had both “Jews and Greeks” in attendance. Were the Greeks Jewish converts? Paul “spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed” (verse 14). But his message didn’t convince everyone.
Now those that are not Jewish are called Gentiles. Were the Greeks in attendance called Gentiles? Were these “Gentiles” in attendance at the Jewish synagogue? Why the change in reference?
The Gentiles had their minds “poisoned” against Paul and Barnabas by the unbelieving Jews. What was it that these unbelieving Jews were spreading? Paul and Barnabas stayed on for a long time trying to combat this poisoning. The Holy Spirit provided evidence of the truth of their testimony with miracles. I wonder what miracles were done there. I assume there were healings and deliverance from demonic powers but was there any extra ordinary ones done in that city? Why didn’t the miracles impact the people like it did in other regions?
The conflict went beyond the synagogue walls. The whole town was divided by the message Paul and Barnabas brought. I’m going to venture to guess that those who received some form of miracle were on the apostles’ side.
The division between the two opposing camps grew to the point where those against decided to do something about it. Here Jews and Gentiles united in an effort to remove their “thorn.” Surprise! The religious leaders and the Gentile rulers were on the same page as the unbelieving group. The plan of this group was to stone Paul and Barnabas. What charges were they trumping up for this punishment? Was it blaspheme, like with Stephen and Jesus?
Once again Paul escapes their plot and takes Barnabas with him. It is amazing how many times Paul sneaks out just before the ax is going to fall. I FULLY believe that was God protecting him and telling him when to leave. His eleventh hour escape.
NONE of the death threats or plots prevented Paul and company from continuing to share the gospel. They simply moved on to the next location. They would not be silenced.
Father God, I’m afraid I would have given up in Paul’s shoes. He had so many people come against him for sharing Your word. But he also had MANY people believe Your word too. That second group must be what kept him going. That and the fact that he KNEW what he was saying was the truth. Please help me continue on, no matter what comes against me, including feeling like I am alone in this walk. I know I’m not but sometimes I get discouraged because I don’t hear from anyone else who is walking with me through the scriptures. Please give me Paul like perseverance. Did he ever want to sit down for a few days? Forgive me for losing heart so often. I KNOW Your word is healing to my bones and music for my soul. Renew the hunger in me to dig even deeper.