While they were at Lystra, Paul and Barnabas came upon a man with crippled feet. He had been that way from birth, so he had never walked. He was sitting and listening as Paul preached. Looking straight at him, Paul realized he had faith to be healed. So Paul called to him in a loud voice, “Stand up!” And the man jumped to his feet and started walking. When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in their local dialect, “These men are gods in human form!” They decided that Barnabas was the Greek god Zeus and that Paul was Hermes, since he was the chief speaker.
Now the temple of Zeus was located just outside the town. So the priest of the temple and the crowd brought bulls and wreaths of flowers to the town gates, and they prepared to offer sacrifices to the apostles. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard what was happening, they tore their clothing in dismay and ran out among the people, shouting, “Friends, why are you doing this? We are merely human beings—just like you! We have come to bring you the Good News that you should turn from these worthless things and turn to the living God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. In the past He permitted all the nations to go their own ways, but He never left them without evidence of Himself and His goodness. For instance, He sends you rain and good crops and gives you food and joyful hearts.” But even with these words, Paul and Barnabas could scarcely restrain the people from sacrificing to them.Acts 14:8-28
These are the questions you have come up with for this section. I have gathered them together and will work my way through them. I am not sure how much I will get done today as as I have to make a trip to another city in New Zealand urgently and I have woken up late. The quietness of our house and surroundings is conducive to sleeping in.
- I found the healing of the man in Lystra interesting and it caused me to want to know more about Paul looking straight at him.
- I assume this happened while Paul was preaching to the crowd and the man was somewhere among the crowds. What did the man do that caused Paul to look at him?
- It seems there was a strong conviction of faith on Paul’s part and that of the crippled man. Do you agree Ian?
- What does it mean “faith to be healed”? Is there a different level of faith, and how can you reach that level of faith ?
- How did the Lord proved their message was true by giving them power to do miraculous signs and wonders? Why doesn’t Luke tell us what happened?
- Zeus is famous but I haven’t heard much about Hermes.
- Why didn’t Paul and Barnabas use the people’s thought that they were Gods for their benefit?
- “They tore their clothing in dismay and ran out amongst the people…” that must have been quite a scene. Was this form of behaviour normal and is it still in present day times?
Due to time constraints this morning I will deal with the first three verses of this passage and will probably still not finish. I am sure you will agree that it is a curious event. It leaves us with lots of questions. They came upon a man with crippled feet. What exactly does that mean? It seems that he was sitting by the roadside and they saw him as they went past. But that is not the way Luke has recorded it for us. We are told clearly that he was sitting and listening as Paul preached. So how do we harmonize the two concepts. Simple, there was no synagogue in Lystra at that time and so it is likely that a crowd gathered in the open air as Paul preached. He was in the audience and so by virtue of that combination of factors Paul and Barnabas came upon him. I could tell you of many encounters I have had with people where God did something special for them in the midst of one of my meetings. So that is not so unusual. There are times when God brings about a chance encounter with someone who before the meeting was a stranger but it is like the Holy Spirit singles them out. He can do that.
This man we are told had been a cripple from birth and had never walked before. Again I know people like that. The people who were there knew of the man’s circumstances. I immediately think of Aldo, a little boy we have know from birth who was born with a birth defect in his feet and legs and a young man called Rusman whom I met in a village in Sulawesi. I can easily transfer my connection with Aldo and Rusman to this story. But in this case there are differences between Aldo and Rusman and this man. Firstly I know Aldo, and Rusman, Paul didn’t know this man. Paul had no reason to focus on the man because this was the first meeting between them. If Aldo had been in a meeting of mine I would likely have seen him and have instantly known of his situation. In the case of Rusman I smelled his problem. His legs were gangrenous and his wounds smelt terrible. All I am saying is there are features or elements of our encounter with people which singles them out for attention. However in this encounter between Paul and the man in Lystra there was nothing which made him stand out. Once he was seated there would have been nothing which would have told Paul there was anything different about this man. If either Aldo or Rusman had been seated on the ground in a crowd I would have no clue there was anything different about them compared with anyone else in the crowd. If I arrived before either of those two came and saw them coming then I would know the nature of their plight simply by looking.
Is there any more information on the meaning that Paul realized the man had faith, what did the man do, or is the focus is that Holy Spirit is telling Paul to heal him?
I have met Aldo and Rusman, I know nothing more about the man in Lystra other than what Luke has told us. There is debate among the commentators as to whether he was a beggar or not. Was he simply sitting there before Paul happened to stop and start preaching or did he come along and join the crowd as Paul preached. We simply don’t know. But Luke does make it clear that this was no ordinary human encounter. Rather this was an encounter pregnant with the presence of the Spirit of God. During his preaching Paul looked straight at the man and realized he had faith to believe he would / could be healed. The word used here is the Greek word [atenizo] which carries the meaning to look intently at something or someone. To fix your eye upon them, look them straight in the eye, to look directly at them. This was now no change encounter. At that moment the Holy Spirit was telling Paul, “that man there, I want you to heal him”. I am sure the moment was not lost on the Lystran man either. The look from Paul would have communicated to him something was about to happen. The same word is used in Acts 3:4 when Peter looked straight at the beggar waiting by the road on the way to temple in Jerusalem. Clearly there was something in the moment which communicated on both sides of the divide, in Paul and in the man. Many times we are told in Scripture that people were healed because of their faith. In this encounter the connection of faith, both in Paul and in the man, was heightened. Paul clearly sensed God was going to do something. I would say the man himself sensed something too. A moment when there was a “bing” in the spirit. I have felt those moments on both sides of the fence – as the one whom God used to heal and as the recipient of the healing. Simply put it is God at work in and through the Holy Spirit.
There are moments in a meeting when God singles out a person to be healed. I have been in meetings where the preacher or speaker has said something like, “that woman in the red dress, come forward God wants to heal you” or a little less definite, “there is someone in this area here who God wants to heal from a problem in your right knee”. That is a word of knowledge from the Holy Spirit which often immediately produces a faith response in the likely recipient. In this encounter between Paul and the man there was no utterance to single out the man, there was only a direct, lingering look. But it was enough to indicate to Paul the Holy Spirit wanted to heal this man and also to indicate to the man in the crowd that something was going to happen. This would have raised his expectation and his faith I suspect. Whatever transpired between them or between them and the Holy Spirit of God was enough to give Paul the boldness to speak out loudly before the crowd and call him out.
- “You, stand up!”
- “Yes, you there in the green shirt. Stand up.”
- “You know it. I am talking to you. God has talked to you too. You know you’re the one.”
- Then what does the man do? He leaps to his feet and starts walking. Something he has never done before in his life.
Can you just imagine the excitement and expectation in the air after that? Now that has to transform the atmosphere of the meeting. Especially when the people around about him either knew him and his situation or had seen his condition when he walked in and sat down. Imagine the surprise of the ones around him. Consider now the way in which these people have been prepared to accept the supernatural in their midst. It must have been electrifying. It was.
That is all I have time for today. There is still more for me to say but I have to close this Gem now. See you next Gem here beside the road in Lystra.
Faith is a bird that feels dawn breaking and sings while it is still dark.Anon
Fear knocked at the door and faith answered. No one was there.Old English Proverb
Sorrow looks back, worry looks around, faith looks up.Anon
Faith is spiritualized imagination.H.W. Beecher
There are three stages in every great work of God: first, it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done.Hudson Taylor
Whether it’s possible or impossible makes little difference to God. He just does His will!Anon