But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and after winning the crowds over, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, presuming him to be dead. But after the disciples had surrounded him, he got up and went back into the city. On the next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe.
After they had proclaimed the good news in that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, to Iconium, and to Antioch. They strengthened the souls of the disciples and encouraged them to continue in the faith, saying, “We must enter the kingdom of God through many persecutions.”
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Ok, so Paul and Barnabas are in Lystra preaching the Gospel. There isn’t much to tell us how the crowds responded. They don’t seem totally hostile, probably just confused thinking Paul and Barnabas were Zeus and Hermes.
The next piece is interesting though, Jewish people who come to stone Paul and Barnabas all the way from Antioch, a 90 mile journey by foot!
Stoning was typically two witnesses pushing the person off a cliff or building (usually two stories). After that the witnesses would drop a large boulder together, at that point anyone in the crowd would throw a stone each to finish the job. Presumably Paul went through this whole process, picked himself up, and goes back into the city. Probably wouldn’t be the place I’d head back to.
Even more surprising is that Paul then heads out to Antioch, back to where the Jews who tried to kill him were from!
When life gets hard, I typically go the other way. When things don’t work out at first, I figure maybe that’s God closing a door. Not Paul though, he goes right back into the city, why?
Paul’s driving motivator at all times was to preach the Gospel. He goes back into the city, and then back to Antioch, because he loves the people who just tried to kill him. Jesus loves the people that killed him.
When I am persecuted, or doors get shut, do I continue to seek the good of those people? Do I continue to preach the gospel even if the first response is less than ideal?
It’s the Jewish concept of chutzpah, it’s audacity, or incredible motivation for a purpose. Our purpose is the gospel, but am I really that motivated to share it?