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  • Writer's pictureVicar Matt Doebler

Matins Devotion: July 10, 2023

It’s quite the ordeal that Paul goes through on his first visit to the city of Lystra. First, the mission to the Gentiles of that city goes belly up when he and Barnabas heal a crippled man and the surrounding crowds think the gods Zeus and Hermes have visited the city in human form. Paul and Barnabas can barely keep the people from offering sacrifices to them. And then, on top of this colossal misunderstanding, a group of Jews that had been hunting Paul finally catch up to him. They are evidently very persuasive. They quickly whip up a mob of other Jews—perhaps even capitalizing on the Zeus/Hermes incident—and before you know it Paul is being pelted with sharp rock until he looks dead. Then his body is dragged out of the city and left unburied for the wild animals to devour.

And yet, as Paul will later write to Timothy, the Lord rescues Paul from this trial. Luke tells us that after the disciples gather around Paul’s body—Paul rises. The word here is anistemi, which can simply mean “stand up,” but it is also the same word that means resurrection. Was Paul dead? Well, the text is not very clear one way or the other, but there is something of the flavor of the miraculous here. Because what does Paul do next? Having been misunderstood…having been chased down…having been persecuted…Having died or nearly died…having been raised again…what does Paul do? He preaches the gospel. He proclaims the name of Jesus Christ…the name on whose account he has been called to suffer. This is the true miracle at Lystra. Not whether or not Paul was resuscitated here, but that the power of God is at work in Paul—even through his defeats—even through his sufferings—to bring about the growth of Christ’s kingdom.

That’s why Paul will write years later to the church in Corinth that God has placed this treasure of his glorious gospel in fragile and unattractive and ordinary jars of clay—so that God might show that the power that expands Christ’s kingdom does not belong to us—but to God alone. And so that we might endure affliction, and persecution, and loneliness, and hatred…so that we might trust when our road is dark…that we might not lose hope when our attempt to share the faith with our friends, or family, or work colleagues goes horribly awry. That we might remain faithful to the name of Christ even though, for the sake of that name, we are made to feel like dead men walking. Because, in a way, that’s what we are. Like Paul, we are called to share in the death and disgrace of our Lord Jesus, so that one day we might also share in his life and resurrection. In this life, we may carry the marks of the Lord Jesus and be left in the dirt like dead men. But one day, we will stand up. We will rise. And we and all of Christ’s saints will enter into his glorious and eternal kingdom.

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