God’s Word for You
Acts 14:19-20 Stoned and left for dead
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, July 3, 2020
19 Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won over the crowd. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, assuming that he had died. 20 But when the disciples gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe.
There isn’t any indication as to how much time had passed in Lystra, a day or a couple of weeks. Considering Paul’s concern for the Thessalonians when he was only able to spend three Sabbaths with them, and finding no similar reference in Galatians, I wonder if it was more than a month. At any rate, Luke tells us that after Paul and Barnabas got the crowd settled down after they tried to sacrifice to them, the ministry at Lystra ended with jealous Jews once again finding him and stirring up the crowd. Maybe it was easier for the Jews to do, this time, with the pagan Lystrians. “Paul insulted you by telling you that your sacrifices were worthless!” Of course, any statement like that would have been idolatrous, since it would at the very least imply that their pagan rituals were not a form of idolatry at all.
For a proper stoning, the one punished should have been taken outside the city and then stoned, with his chief accusers throwing the first stones (often from above, and we’re not talking about little rocks). Here, the stoning happened right there in the streets. Gentiles would not have stoned a man without being told to; they would have beaten him to death with clubs or some other punishment. But as with the crucifixion of Jesus, the Jews just wanted Paul dead no matter what. They would figure out the details later on.
Don’t let the word “disciples” in verse 20 get by without noticing it. Paul and Barnabas had made converts that could be called disciples. Progress had been made; the gospel had done its mysterious work, and souls were saved.
Paul, lying by the roadside, lay like a dead man in the dust or the mud. I can feel the hot sun on my neck as I think about Paul, bloody and unconscious. I can hear the deafening scream of summer insects unafraid of visitors. In my mind, I can see the wings of vultures crisscrossing over the blazing sun. Is that a wild dog up the road, curious about this new item of roadkill outside the city? With a yelp, the dog scurries away. The insects quiet down a little; someone is coming. First Barnabas (beaten as well? We don’t know…), then some of their converts, and then many more of the Lystrian disciples come out of the city, probably at dusk, to gather up Paul’s body and get it ready for burial. Among them we might find young Timothy and his mother and grandmother, weeping for the apostle like John and the women at the cross of Jesus.
But then, a miracle! Paul wakes up, gets to his feet, and to their amazement, he goes back into the city. Maybe he wasn’t about to leave behind his extra cloak, or his books (“my scrolls, especially the parchments,” 2 Timothy 4:13). In the morning, he and Barnabas left. They would return, and the congregation would thrive, but for everyone’s good it was time to go, so off they went to the next town.
Our own comings and goings also have an effect on the people in our lives and the work of the gospel in our hearts. Has an illness of yours (I assume you have not been stoned almost to death outside your city) caused people you love to pray for you? Has your arrival made people praise God? What could you do in your life to make more of a positive impact on the faith of the people you love? It really just starts in the pages of your Bible and in the prayers whispered into your folded hands in the dark. Be there for them, pray for them, love them, and know that your loving God loves the people you love, too.
Pastor Timothy Smith