Today’s Chocolate: Parra White Chocolate with Almonds
Today’s Passage: Acts 14
So this is the part where Paul almost dies.
Things get rough in Iconium, but Iconium’s not where Paul almost dies. It’s merely the part where he almost gets stoned. Jews and Greeks alike accept the gospel in Iconium, but there’s no shortage of Jews who don’t believe, and they get more than enough Gentiles on their side to make trouble for the missionary crew. It comes to a head “when an attempt was made by both the Gentiles and the Jews with their rulers, to mistreat and to stone them” (5), so Paul and company beat feet to Lycaonia, Lystra, and Derbe. And I’m not just saying that. All three of those locations are on the Anatolian mainland, same as Iconium, so they didn’t take a boat. They beat feet.
Or the horses they rode on beat feet. Or the oxen pulling their wagon. The point is that someone had to beat feet in order to get them out of Iconium and on to the next stop. Look, let’s not get bogged down in the feet thing.
So they come to Lystra. And things get rough in Lystra too. When he heals a man lame from birth, the crowds think he and Barnabas are gods in human guise, Zeus and his messenger Hermes. They try to sacrifice oxen to them, but Paul and Barnabas protest: “Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God” (15). It’s such a big deal to Paul and Barnabas that they tear their robes, run out into the middle of the crowds, and to all appearances have to physically restrain the priest of Zeus and the Lystran people from offering their sacrifices. When was the last time you considered something so important as to be worth ripping your clothes over? That’s how important not being worshipped and bringing the truth to ignorant people was to Paul.
But the seeds Paul’s been sowing come back to haunt him. I guess they’re ghost seeds; I’m kind of mixing my metaphors. Point is, as Luke reports: “Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having won over the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead” (19). Paul’s old enemies have pursued him, and they stone him within an inch of his life, to the point that they take him for dead. He must have been a bloody mess, yet he gets up and travels to Derbe the next day. He even comes back to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch to encourage the new Christians there, risking another dangerous encounter with their opponents. Paul’s dedicated.
Have you suffered physically for the gospel? Have you come up against the edge of your own mortality for it? I certainly haven’t. And I was in a weird headspace as I began this post, struggling to get it started, but as I mulled over Paul’s travels and tribulations for the hojillionth time, it hit me: if Paul can come within three hit points of death for the gospel, I can type up a blog post. And I haven’t even said what the gospel is yet, haven’t explicitly stated that Jesus Christ died to save us from the death that our own evil is driving us toward, died to give us a new life and a living relationship with the God who loves us. But there, I said it. And ain’t nobody throwing rocks at me for it.
We can deliver the message that God has given to us. I can do this. You can do this. We can do this.