Faith on Fire – Week 16
Wherever you find yourself this week, in local lockdown or not, able to return to toddler groups or not, I hope that God has been speaking to you through this week’s verse.
“On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy. They began to contradict what Paul was saying and heaped abuse on him” Act 13:44-45
The verses this week start with “On the next Sabbath” this immediately got me wondering what happened the previous sabbath? Reading the previous verses of the chapter puts the verses in context and opens up an amazing account of Paul and his companions visit to the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch.
When Paul had been in the synagogue the previous Sabbath he had taken the people through the history of the Jewish people right from their time in Egypt to Jesus coming, dying and resurrection. Paul started speaking to the people from where they were at. Just before he spoke the leaders had been reading from the law which Moses had given them and the prophets which told them about a coming Messiah. From there Paul took them through history to show them that Jesus was the one spoken about in the old testament and that they needed to put their faith and trust in him. They were never able to get justification by the law but faith and trust in Jesus would set them free. This is a great example to me of how we as Christians should witness and share the gospel with the people in our lives. I think it’s important to know something about people’s circumstances and where they are at so we can share the gospel in way that people can understand and relate to.
From Paul’s message many Jews and devout converts to Judaism began following Paul and Barnabas. Word must have spread about what they were saying because the next sabbath the WHOLE city gathered to hear the word of the Lord! Wow can you imagine if everyone in your city turned up to church on Sunday! (Not very likely now I know with current restrictions so how about online church!).
When the Jews saw the crowds they were jealous, they did not like that all these people were listening to what Paul had to say. I think the thing that they would have not liked the most is that people were becoming Christians and following Jesus.
The people who came to the synagogue that Sabbath wanted to hear what Paul and Barnabas were saying. When the Jewish leaders started stirring up trouble Paul and his companions left the city. This shows me that when we do step out and tell people about Jesus not everyone is going to like what we say. The gospel is something that we share with people when we get the opportunity but it isn’t something that we force on people if they don’t want to hear it.
Speaking to the masses
Reading this I was reminded of two things that this verse highlights for me. The first is how so many gathered to listen: I am not a soap-box Christian, I am not comfortable to push my beliefs on others but have on several occasions had others push their beliefs on me. Paul and Barnabus talked openly among those who would listen , those who wanted to know more. This for me is a more comfortable form of Evangelism, it is direct yet graceful, honest yet encouraging. I think we have a lot to learn from such bold yet gracious behaviour.
The second part that struck me was how some people became jealous of the volume of people who were drawn to what Paul and Barnabus had to say: this reminds me of how, as a society in general, people are so concerned with status and of keeping things in the way they are used to that they fail to see what is actually happening right in front of them. The need to have ‘likes’ and ‘shares’. The need to be keeping up with the ‘ A’ listers and superstars that people so often aspire to be like. The need to be popular and to be ‘right’ seems to dominate life. The Jewish people were being faced with changes to their belief systems that must have been both wonderful yet daunting. I do wonder how we would cope in the 21st Century with this level of change (considering how upset some Christians get over people sitting in their pew spot! ) What I do know is that I am in awe of those who are bold and gracious with their Evangelism , whilst trying more to be less critical of change, more open to God’s word and more forgiving of those who are struggling to adapt to new ways of living with Jesus in their lives.
The numbers of Christians were growing by the day now! What an exciting time to be around, so what happened next? Here’s the next meditation for you all:
“They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.” Acts 14:21-23