On Sunday, December 17, we’ll be studying and discussing the Uniform Series text Acts 14:8-11, 19-23. The text includes the first part of a story about a healing miracle performed while Barnabas and Paul are preaching in Lystra, a city in Asia Minor; it then jumps to the conclusion of the story of Barnabas’ and Paul’s first missionary journey, which has incited significant opposition among “the Jews” of the region. Here are some questions we might consider in our study and discussion:
When Paul heals the lame man, he first “looked intently at him” and “saw that he had the faith” to be healed or “rescued.” What do we think this means? What might Paul have been looking for? Can we see (or, “see”) that someone has faith? How – that is, what does it look like? More personally: If someone like Paul looked intently at you, what would they see, do you think? Why do you say that? How do you feel about that? Why?
When “the crowd” witnesses this healing, they claim that the gods have come down among them in human form. Why do you think they say this? Are they right, in any way? Why, or why not?
[In the verses we don’t read, the crowd wants to sacrifice to Barnabas and Paul, as the gods Zeus and Hermes. Is this a problem for the Barnabas’ and Paul’s mission? Why? What kind of problem is it? Would you call it “opposition”? Why or why not? If it’s not opposition, would you say it is better, or easier to deal with, than opposition, or not? Why?]
In v. 19, “Jews” from Antioch and Iconium come to Lystra and turn “the crowd” against Barnabas and Paul. What are some reasons people go out of their way to oppose someone or something? Are any events in today’s world similar in any way? If so, what are they? Does what we know about those events help us understand what is going on in this text? How? More personally: Have you ever participated in any kind of “opposition?” What did you do, and why did you do it? Does your experience help you understand what is going on in this text? How? Does it make the text simpler, or more complicated, for you? How might last week’s discussion around discernment be relevant to understanding this text?
In verse 20, “the disciples” surround Paul, who has been left for dead; he gets up, and goes back in to the city of Lystra. What impression do you get of the church in Lystra from this report? Why? What impression do you get of Paul from this report? Why?
In verse 21 & 22, Barnabas and Paul return to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, cities where they have been opposed; they appoint elders in the churches, “strengthen the souls” of the disciples, and encourage them with words about persecutions. What does this tell us about the situation in the new churches? About the churches’ relationship to Barnabas and Paul? Why?
In verse 22, does Paul’s speech suggest that the churches in the region are suffering opposition or persecution? What can we tell from the text about what form this takes? Are there groups that are the target(s) of opposition in today’s world? What form does that opposition take? How might what we know about opposition in our world influence our reading of this text? What group(s) in today’s world might be similar to these early churches? Why? What groups might be different? Why? What ideas does this comparison raise for us?
How does Paul “strengthen” the disciples? What is his specific message about persecutions? How encouraging is this message to you? Why? What challenges do these new churches seem to face? In what way(s) are these challenges similar to ones faced by your church? In what way(s) different?
If you were one of these disciples, what would you be thinking at the end of verse 23? Why? What do you think you would you be concerned about? Why? What do you think would you find hopeful and encouraging about your situation? Why?