How To Draw A Crowd
Lord, in everything I do, may I point everyone back to You. May You receive all the glory today.
Read Acts 14:8–20
8 In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked. 9 He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed 10 and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.
11 When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” 12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. 13 The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them.
14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: 15 “Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them. 16 In the past, he let all nations go their own way. 17 Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” 18 Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them.
19 Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. 20 But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.
Sometimes it is tricky to handle extra attention we have acquired. Has this happened to you?
What happened in Lystra is very different from what happened in Pisidian Antioch and Iconium. People are usually very impressed by a miracle. Even simple magic has a “wow effect” that gets our attention and focus. And even today some Christians think that if we experienced more miracles in the church it would greatly enhance our evangelism.
But the evidence is highly ambiguous. At Lystra, Paul and Barnabas end up quite distressed by the crowd’s reception of them (11–14)—a somewhat higher and more dangerous form of our contemporary celebrity adulation. Paul’s experience mirrors that of Peter at the Beautiful Gate in Acts 3. In both cases the miracle draws a crowd and creates an opportunity to share faith in Christ. In both cases the sheer joy of the healed man is passed over quite quickly and the message is what is focused upon.
These people are pagans, so Paul adapts his message. What was appropriate in a Jewish synagogue wouldn’t work here. He goes back to first principles and speaks about a creator and sustainer God who blesses his creation (15–17). But the crowds are fickle, and the apostles need to escape (20).
What are your views on miracles? Take some time to study a few Bible passages about miracles.
God, help me to see how miracles could relate to me in the here and now. What do You want to teach me?
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