Acts 13:1-3 and Acts 14:8-20
We should think for ourselves and not just follow a group.
“Don’t make friends with anyone who has a bad temper. You might turn out like them and get caught in a trap.” Proverbs 22:24-25, CEV
The Holy Spirit directed the Antioch church to send Barnabas and Saul on a mission trip to teach people about Christ. This trip is often referred to as “Paul’s First Missionary Journey”. One of the stops on this journey was the city of Lystra where Paul healed a man who had not ever been able to walk. A frenzied crowed first worships Paul and Barnabas as gods and then turns on them and stones Paul. After the crowd left, Paul just got up. After re-visiting some of the places they had been Paul and Barnabas returned to the Antioch church to tell them all of the things God had done.
Jewish Christians had originally crossed cultural and religious barriers when they travelled to Antioch with the purpose of sharing the Gospel with Gentiles who lived there. The next step of faith for the Antioch Church was instigated by the Holy Spirit who actually spoke to the Antioch Christians while they were fasting and praying (Acts 13:2-3).
The trip that Barnabas and Saul set out on is often referred to as “Paul’s First Missionary Journey”. Today’s lesson deals with what happens in Lystra but the following background of the entire trip will help give context.
The Island of Cyprus:
(Acts 13:4-12) From Antioch Barnabas and Paul set sail from the port city of Seleucia and head for Cyprus. Cyprus was Barnabas’ home (Acts 4:36). The first stop on the island is the city of Salamis. Barnabas’ cousin, John Mark joins them at this time as a helper (Acts 13:5).
The writer of Acts begins to refer to Saul as “Paul” (Acts 13:9). “Saul” is his Hebrew name while “Paul” is his Roman name.
Sergius Paulus, the proconsul converted in Paphos, would have been a governor appointed by Rome to rule for one year.
On to the Mainland of Asia Minor:
- Antioch of Pisidia (Acts 13:13-52): Paul robably landing at Attalia and then passing through Perga they arrive in Antioch in the district of Pisidia. This Antioch is not to be confused with the Antioch in Syria where the journey began. John Mark separated from Barnabas and Paul and Paul begins to take leadership of the journey during this time.Although many people in the synagogues believed, Jewish leaders eventually persecuted and then expelled Paul and Barnabas from the city.
- Iconium (Acts 14:1-7)
Iconium is now known as the modern-day city of Konya in the country of Turkey. After preaching in the synagogues Paul and Barnabas found out about a plot against them and fled the area to travel 32 kilometres (20 miles) south-west to Lystra.
The man whom Paul healed might have been sitting by the street or in the market because there is no synagogue mentioned. The crowd’s response to the healing sent them into a frenzy where they began worshipping Barnabas and Paul. They called them Zeus and Hermes, the names of their gods. Amazingly, a priest of the nearby temple to Zeus even provided worshippers with bulls and wreaths so he and everyone else could use them to make sacrifices. According to the NIV Study Bible (Zondervan Corporation, 1985), an ancient legend told about Zeus and Hermes once visiting the area and having no one but an old couple recognise them. Perhaps the priest and the crowd did not want to make that same mistake.What had started as a small crowd of people became a mob out of control.The speech Paul gave here would be further developed into the theme he used in addressing the Areopagus in Athens at Mars Hill.Either there were already Christians in Lystra or perhaps they had been converted because of Paul’s preaching because they gathered around Paul after he had been stoned and left for dead. We will later learn that Timothy and his parents lived here (Acts 16:1) His mother and grandmother were believers so perhaps they were there. Timothy could have been a young boy. Whoever was there witnessed Paul getting up and going back into the city.
The next day Paul and Barnabas went on another 93 kilometres (58 miles) southeast to Derbe where they preached about Jesus. Many people became disciples.
The Trip Back Home (Acts 14:21-28):
After Derbe, instead of taking a shorter way home, Paul and Barnabas re-traced their steps and revisited Lystra, Iconium and Antioch of Pisidia on their way back to Antioch in Syria. As they met with the Christians in these cities they encouraged them to remain true to the faith. They also appointed elders in the churches).
On arriving back in Antioch Paul and Barnabas gathered the church together and reported all that God had done.
- What happened before this story?
- What happens after this story?
- List of all Bible stories and themes on this website.
Way to Introduce the Story:
Bring a deck of cards to class. Let the children help you build a “card house.” As the cards are stacked higher discuss the fact that each of the cards depends on each other. If one falls then they all fall. “Sometimes people are like cards. If one person does something—good or bad—then other people sometimes just follow along. They don’t even think about what they are doing. They just go along with the rest of the people. In today’s story a few people began doing bad things and then a few more until a whole crowd was doing something bad together.”
The Antioch church was made up of Christians who loved God and wanted to tell people about Jesus.
Once, when they were praying and worshipping God they heard the voice of the Holy Spirit. Hearing words from the Holy Spirit is the same as hearing from God (the Father) or Jesus (the Son). God never changes but he sometimes shows different parts of himself. Years before, in the Old Testament, people saw God as Jehovah or Father. The apostles and many others saw God as his son, Jesus, when he lived and walked with them. Now, in the early church, Christians knew God through the power of the Holy Spirit.
This is what the voice of the Holy Spirit said to those who were praying and worshipping God, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
Many people in other places had never heard about Jesus. Now everyone knew that God had a special job for Barnabas and Saul to do. They were going to be missionaries and travel to other places to tell others the good news about Jesus.
So, the Christians in the Antioch church prayed for Barnabas and Saul. They even went without food (fasted) for a certain amount of time so that they could concentrate on this important work of God. To show that they agreed with the Holy Spirit’s instructions they placed their hands on Barnabas and Saul and sent them off on their missionary journey.
After setting off from the port of Seleucia on a ship Barnabas and Saul sailed to the island of Cyprus to teach people. Barnabas and his cousin, John Mark, joined them there as a helper.
In the city of Paphos a Roman Proconsul (like a mayor or governor) asked Barnabas and Saul to come and tell him about Jesus. A magician named Elymas started saying bad things about Jesus.
Even though Saul warned him to stop Elymas kept interrupting. Finally, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Saul made him blind. The Proconsul was so amazed that he immediately knew that everything Saul was saying about Jesus was true.
Saul had two names. Saul = His Jewish name. Paul = His Roman name. From this time onward Saul became known as Paul
From Cyprus Paul and Barnabas continued on to Antioch of Pisidia. (This is a different Antioch from the place where they had started their missionary journey). Barnabas’ cousin, John Mark, decided to leave them and go back to Jerusalem.
In Antioch of Pisidia Paul preached about Jesus in the synagogue. Many people listened and began to believe that Jesus was the Son of God. But some of the Jewish leaders did not believe this. They were jealous that the people were listening to Paul and not to them.
So they made Paul and Barnabas leave their city. The same thing happened in the next place they went, Iconium. Some leaders in Iconium were so angry that they made a plan to mistreat them and stone them.
But Paul and Barnabas did not stop preaching about Jesus. They went on to the city of Lystra and began telling about Jesus there. A man who could not walk overheard what they were saying and began to have faith.
By the power of God Paul healed the man so that he could walk. Everyone was amazed.
But some people didn’t understand that Paul and Barnabas were doing this through the power of God. Instead of giving glory to God they began worshipping Paul and Barnabas like they were gods. More and more people started worshipping Paul and Barnabas. The crowd even called them the names of their gods, Hermes and Zeus.
Paul and Barnabas tried and tried to tell the people to stop calling them gods. There is only one God! He made the world everything in it. Just because lots of people are saying something is true it doesn’t make it true. An entire crowd can be wrong. This crowd was wrong!
Some of the angry Jews from the other cities came and joined the crowd. They started making people believe that Paul and Barnabas were bad. So, first the crowd believed they were gods and then they believed they were bad! They threw stones at Paul until they thought he was dead. Then they drug him out of the city and left him there.
But there were some people who did not follow the crowd. They believed what Paul had been saying about Jesus. While they were gathered around Paul they realised Paul was not dead. He got up and went back into the city.
The next day Paul and Barnabas began revisiting the places they had already been on this missionary journey. They visited the churches and encouraged people to be leaders.
Finally it was time to sail back home to Antioch. When they arrived in Antioch they gathered the church together to tell them everything that God had done through them on this First Missionary Journey. They were glad to be home but they knew that there were still others who needed to hear about Jesus. There would be other missionary journeys in the future.
Ways to Tell the Story:
This story can be told using a variety of methods. Always remain true to the facts found in the Bible but help children connect to its meaning by using drama, visual aids, voice inflection, student interaction and/or emotion.
Click here for visual aids and story-telling methods.
Additional Visual Aids for this Story:
- Crowd in Lystra_Slide Show to download
(.pptx 12 MB file size)
- Crowd in Lystra_Slide Show to download- older format
(.ppt 12 MB file size)
- Crowd in Lystra_Visual Aid- Visual Aid to download and print
(.pdf 6 MB file size)
- What is a miracle? event that cannot happen naturally only through God’s power
- In Lystra, what did the crowd do after Paul healed a man who couldn’t walk? They thought that he and Barnabas were gods and they wanted to make sacrifices to them.
- When the Jews said bad things about Paul in Lystra what did the crowd do? They stoned Paul and drug him out of town.
- After the crowd in Lystra stoned Paul and drug him out of town he was so beat up that they thought he was dead and left him. What happened next? Paul just got up and walked back to town.
Learning Activities and Crafts:
- Trace Paul’s first missionary journey on a map.
- Look up “riot” in the dictionary
- Discuss things that “most” people do and talk about the dangers of following the crowd. God and you together are stronger than any group of people.
- Craft: Make a relief map of Paul’s Journeys featuring the place in today’s story. If you are studying about Paul’s journies over a few lessons then you could add more details to the map each time you learn about another stop on the journey. Instructions on how to make a relief map at http://www.squidoo.com/salt-dough-maps
- Decorate a poster with the verse: “Don’t make friends with anyone who has a bad temper. You might turn out like them and get caught in a trap.” Proverbs 22:24-25, CEV
- Sing a song about sharing God’s Word: I Can Be a Missionary or I’m All Wrapped Up in Jesus or Jesus Loves the Little Children of the World or If You Love Jesus or This Little Light of Mine.
- Find out if your church supports missionaries and arrange for the children in your class to learn about them, correspond with them or even learn about the city or country where they work.
- If you are teaching a series of lesson about Paul then you might draw an outline of him on a large poster or paper and then add descriptive words about him each time you study a new lesson. Alternatively, you might draw a new outline shape of him each week on a whiteboard or even with a stick in the sand (if you are outside) and guide children in adding descriptive words or events inside the outlined shape as a review. Other lessons from the life of Paul are:
- Saul (Paul) Becomes a Christian
- Paul’s 1st Journey- Lystra
- Paul’s 2nd Journey-Macedonian Vision
- Lydia Becomes a Christian
- A Jailer Becomes a Christian
- The Noble Bereans
- Paul Preaches in Athens-Mars Hill
- Priscilla and Aquila
- Paul in Ephesus
- Eutychus Falls from a Window
- Paul Goes to Jerusalem
- Paul’s Nephew Uncovers a Plot
- Paul’s Trial
- Paul’s Shipwreck
- Paul Writes Letters from Prison
- Check the Teaching Ideas page on this website for ideas that are adaptable to any lesson.
- Find other ideas on the Pinterest Board “Paul’s Life and Travels“
Other Online Resources:
- Colouring page and puzzle worksheets (setting out from Antioch) at http://calvarycurriculum.org/
- Telling the story using Legos at http://adventuresinmommydom.org
- Map of Paul’s journey from http://deeperstudy.com/
- Craft: Patterns and instructions for a boat and people at http://www.sundayschoolkids.com/
- Review: Create a “passport” that covers the life of Paul. Good visual ideas and activities. Could be split up to go with several lessons or taught all together as a review of previous lessons concerning Paul found at http://kidsbibledebjackson.blogspot.co.nz/
- Additional Study: Archaeological information and a great slideshow of the route Paul would have taken at http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/