Text: 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.
It can be difficult to start a conversation about something that is touchy or emotional. You know that you really need to have this conversation with this person, but you’re not quite sure the best way to broach the subject. As a result, you look for an opportunity when it presents itself. You hope that you will find an opening to tell this person what they need to hear. This can also be true when it comes to talking about religion. There are certain people that we come into contact with that we would like to tell about Jesus. However, we are not sure how to start the conversation. As we study the events in our text, we see the opportunity that God gave to Paul and Barnabas to start a conversation about God and see that we can learn from their example. A MIRACLE OPENS THE DOOR FOR THE GOSPEL. 1. The Word Of God Works Two Miracles. 2. The Miracles Create An Opportunity To Witness.
Paul and Barnabas are in the middle of their First Missionary Journey. They had been forcibly expelled from Pisidian Antioch, because of a persecution. They had made their way to Iconium, where they spent a considerable amount of time. However, a plot to mistreat and stone Paul and Barnabas was discovered, so the two men made their way to the city of Lystra. It doesn’t appear that there was a Jewish synagogue in Lystra, because there is no mention of Paul and Barnabas preaching there, as had been the case in the other stops along their journey. In all likelihood, they began to teach about Jesus in another public forum, such as the marketplace or the city gates.
While they were teaching, they met a man who was in dire need. He is described as “a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked.” (Verse 8) As result of this encounter with Paul and Barnabas two miracles took place. First of all, let’s look at the more obvious miracle. Here was a man who had never walked a step in his entire life. Everyone in town knew this man and his plight. On this day, “Paul looked directly at him . . . and called out, ‘Stand up on your feet!’ At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.” (Verses 9-10) What a difference one command made! This man went from being lame, never having walked a step, to being able to walk. He was completely healed! He didn’t get up and have a few wobbly steps, trying to get his bearings. He jumps up, fully restored, to his feet and begins to walk about. The power of God was on full display for all to see on that day as this lame man begins to walk.
However, God’s power is shown in another miracle, as well. It may not have been as obvious to the naked eye, but it was even more powerful. In speaking of that lame man, it says, “He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith.” (Verse 9) The lame man listened to Paul teach. There is no doubt what the subject of the lesson was. Paul proclaimed that Jesus Christ had come into the world to be her Savior. As this man listened, the Holy Spirit was at work, creating a faith that trusted in Jesus as his Savior. Although this miracle may not have been as visually flashy as giving him the ability to walk, it was a far greater miracle. The ability to walk for this individual would eventually come to an end, whether through old age or death. The miracle of faith that had been done for this man would have eternal blessings, as he would spend his eternity with Jesus.
When people read about the miracles in the Bible, they may wish that they could see one for themselves. If only I could see someone who was lame given the ability to walk or if I could see my meager resources multiply like Jesus did with the feeding of the five thousand, that would really be something. I sure wish I could see something like that. As eye-catching as that might be, realize that you have experienced an even greater miracle than these miracles that we have mentioned. You have been raised from the dead. Allow me to explain. The apostle Paul describes our natural spiritual self in this way, “You were dead in your transgressions and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1) This describes each and every one of us as we came into this world. We were spiritually dead. We would have spent our eternity apart from God, because of this natural spiritual state. More than that, we have sinned against God with our actions, words, and thoughts. We deserved to be punished by God for all eternity. There was absolutely nothing we could do about it either, any more than a dead person can make a single step.
However, the miracle of life has been worked in you. Again, Paul writes in Ephesians 2, “God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.” (Ephesians 2:4-5) God made us alive with Christ. He is the source of life. He brought life from death when he came to the earth to be our Savior. His perfect life was lived as a substitute for our imperfect life. His suffering and death on the cross was in substitution for us. Jesus took our place by being punished for all of the sins that we have committed. Jesus rose from death to life on Easter morning, assuring us that the work of salvation has been completed. The miracle of raising you from spiritual death took place when you were brought to faith. In all likelihood, this miracle took place in a seemingly quiet way, when some water was poured upon your head and words were spoken. Through the Sacrament of Baptism, faith was created in your heart. While this miracle may not be as flashy as making a lame man walk, it has far greater benefits. You can be sure that you will be with Jesus forever in the glories of heaven. The Word of God has worked a great miracle in you.
When the town of Lystra became aware of what had happened, it affected the whole city. They knew that this man was lame. Now, here he is walking around! They come to, what seems to be to them, a logical reason. “The gods have come down to us in human form!” (Verse 11) This concept was a familiar theme in Greek mythology. The gods would come to the earth and take on a human form and interact with people. They decided that Barnabas was Zeus, the head of the gods. They assumed that Paul was Hermes, who was the messenger of the gods. We even read, “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.” (Verse 13)
When Paul and Barnabas realized what was happening, they were distraught. They pointed away from themselves by saying, “Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you.” (Verse 15) They, then, used this opportunity to teach the crowd that was assembled about the true God. “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. In the past, he let all nations go their own way. 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.” (Verse 15-17) In view of the miracle that the people had seen, Paul had an opportunity to witness to them about God.
We note the way in which Paul addressed the crowd. He did not start off by telling them about Jesus and the fact that he was the fulfillment of all of the prophecies in the Old Testament. This line of teaching would have had meaning for them. They hadn’t grown up knowing the Old Testament, as had Paul’s audience in the synagogues. Instead, Paul met them where they were at spiritually. They had the natural knowledge of God. They could see the beauties of creation. They had experienced God’s loving hand as he had provided all that they needed for this life. Paul, using the miracle that they had seen, met the people where they were at spiritually, and witnessed the amazing love of God to them.
Here we find a wonderful example for us to follow. The first thing we note is that the people saw the miracle that God had performed for this man born lame. They saw what had happened. God has worked a wonderful miracle in each one of us. Let those around you see that miracle. By this, I don’t mean that you walk around wearing as many Christian pieces of jewelry that you can, so that people can see you’re a Christian. Rather, as you live in this world, you show that you are a Christian by the way that you talk, by the way that you treat others, by the attitudes you exhibit, etc. Believe me, when you live like a Christian, it is very obvious in contrast with what the rest of the world shows. As Jesus reminds us in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” People will notice the miracle that has happened to you.
This miracle will also give you an opportunity to witness the love of God to others. This means meeting the people where they are at the moment. If someone has a great blessing enter into their lives, you have the opportunity to rejoice with them and share with them where that great blessing came from. Perhaps, some tragedy enters into their lives and they don’t know where to turn. Their friends and family gather around them to support them as best as they are able, but there doesn’t seem to be any hope. You have the opportunity to come to that person in their distress and share with them the one who truly does care. You can tell them about God who guides and directs every step of our way. You can assure them that God loves them and will always make everything work out for our benefit. Perhaps, as you are visiting with an individual, they bring up something that they feel guilty about. The guilt has been eating them up inside for a long time. Some people might tell that person that they have nothing to feel guilty about. After all, no one is perfect. That doesn’t help, at all. If anything, it makes the guilt worse. However, you have the opportunity to witness to them about the forgiveness that God has given you for the sake of Jesus Christ. You get the awesome opportunity to tell them that Jesus paid for that sin, too. They may counter that what they have done is so horrible that there is no way that they could ever be forgiven. You can assure them that all sins were forgiven through Jesus. You can assure them of God’s complete forgiveness as he says in Jeremiah 31:34, “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” The miracle that God has done in your heart will give you opportunities to witness to others.
The word “miracle” is often used to describe something that’s hard to believe. When the 1980 US Olympic hockey team beat the Russian hockey team, it was referred to as “The Miracle on Ice.” If a child gets a good grade on a test, they may exclaim that it was a miracle. Those are special moments, but hardly are miracles. We thank God for the many miracles that we have recorded for us in his Word. They are reminders of God’s almighty care for people. We especially thank God for the miracle that occurred in our lives the day that we were brought to faith. We pray that this miracle might happen for many others around the world. May God use the miracle that he has done in us to open many doors for the gospel. May God help us to this end. Amen.
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