Today’s Chocolate: Parra White Chocolate with Almonds
Today’s Passage: Acts 13
As many of you know, that well-worn Bible from the photos with the occasional handwritten marginal notes is my dad’s. He’s had it for nearly as long as I can remember; the date in the front cover is 8/28/88. I was five then. I used to look at the maps in the back, with their bright colors tracing out the boundaries of geopolitical regions and the travels of Christ and Paul. Much of their information went right over my elementary-school head, but now I’m older and wiser, or at least better educated, and for today’s chapter, those maps might conceivably come in handy. Paul connects with Barnabas and gets his first major missionary voyage underway, and two major events occur at Paphos on the island of Cyprus and on the mainland at Pisidian Antioch.
First: Paphos. Here Paul and Barnabas find a magician while preaching the gospel, a man known as Bar-Jesus (i.e. Son of Jesus) in Hebrew, and Elymas in Greek. Jesus (in Aramaic, “Yeshua”) was a not-uncommon name at the time, as it means “God saves.” Paul also meets the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, and it comes out that they share a name; it’s the first time we see Luke identify Saul with the name by which we most commonly know him.
The proconsul is open to hearing the word of God, but Bar-Jesus the magician is open to closing that door. Luke reports that Bar-Jesus “was opposing them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith” (8). It gets to the point where Paul–and apparently God–have had enough; for all the harassment he’s experienced, Paul declares, “Now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and not see the sun for a time” (11). And it happens. As a result, the proconsul is amazed and believes.
There are two valuable lessons for us here: first, don’t stand in the way of the gospel if you don’t want to go blind, and second, if a Jewish magician is harassing you, God might just use the incident to bring a Roman proconsul to faith. See how applicable the Bible is, even in our modern world? All joking aside, though, it’s a bad idea to try to prevent someone from coming to faith in Christ, even if you won’t go blind for it. And God can use the adversity we experience to bring about some truly amazing good things.
Paul and company move on from Paphos, eventually making their way to Pisidian Antioch, which is like normal Antioch, but Pisidian. They go to Sabbath services, and when the synagogue officials invite them to share a “word of exhortation for the people” (15), Paul gives a speech. Like Stephen’s speech in Acts 7, it serves as a brief history of the Jews, emphasizing that Hebrew scriptures and the promises made to the patriarchs find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ. And like Peter’s speech in Acts 2, it quotes copiously from the prophets and psalms, including specifically Psalm 16:10, “For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; neither will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay” (cf. Acts 2:31, 13:35-37). Paul is a Jew’s Jew, and his message resonates with many of his countrymen there, but things turn sour on the next Sabbath. Nearly the entire city, not just the Jewish population, shows up, and the Jews, “filled with jealousy…began contradicting the things spoken by Paul” (Acts 13:45). So Paul
takes his ball and goes home takes the gospel to the Gentiles, who prove far more receptive.
But the Jews end up driving Paul and Barnabas out of Pisidian Antioch. Tomorrow, we’ll see the team playing ball in Iconium, Lystra, and beyond.