Angry Crowd in Lystra- Paul’s 1st Journey


1_Pauls 1st Journey LystraScripture Reference:
Acts 13:1-3 and Acts 14:8-20

Suggested Emphasis:
We should think for ourselves and not just follow a group.

Memory Verse:
Don’t make friends with someone who easily gets angry. Don’t spend time with someone who has a bad temper. If you do, you may learn to be like him. Then you will be in real danger. Proverbs 22:24-25, ICB

Story Overview:

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 crowd first worshipped Paul and Barnabas as gods and then turned on them and stoned Paul.  Despite this, after the crowd left, Paul miraculously stood up as if not injured.  After revisiting some of the previous stops Paul and Barnabas returned to the Antioch church to tell them all of the things God had done.

Background Study:

Click here for an overview of the Book of Acts

The word “Gentile” refers to anyone who was not born into a Jewish family. In the Old Testament, only the Jews followed God.  After Jesus came to earth he wanted everyone to follow God and follow him. So in the New Testament things were different than in the Old Testament.  Some Jewish people followed Jesus and some Gentile people followed Jesus.

The Antioch Church was made up of both Jews and Gentiles so they sent Paul and Barnabas on this missionary journey to tell everyone about Jesus (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 just one event in the trip (Lystra) but the following gives a little more context to the entire first journey…


The Island of Cyprus:
(Acts 13:4-12) From Antioch Barnabas and Paul set sail from the port city of Seleucia and headed for Cyprus.  Cyprus was Barnabas’ home (Acts 4:36).  The first stop on the island is the city of Salamis.  At this time we learn that Barnabas’ cousin, John Mark was also helping Paul and Barnabas (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 probably landed at Attalia. Then, passing through Perga, they arrived 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 began 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)
    In our day Iconium is 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.

And Now for Today’s Lesson: (Acts 14:8-20)


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 and showing them hospitality.  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 through Paul’s preaching since a group of Christians 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 even there when Paul revived.  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.


Before sailing back home they passed through the regions of Pisidia and Pamphylia and stopped at the cities of Perga and Attalia preaching about Jesus as they went.


On arriving back in Antioch Paul and Barnabas gathered the church together and reported all that God had done.

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 Story:

The Antioch church was made up of Christians who loved God and wanted to tell people about Jesus.

Once, when the Antioch church was 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 Yahweh (or in old English, 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 saw God through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit wanted the Antioch church to send missionaries out into the world to tell others about Jesus. But who would the missionaries be?

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 even heard about Jesus. They needed missionaries to go to them and tell them the good news about Jesus. Now everyone knew that God had a special job for Barnabas and Saul to do.

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 first missionary journey.

Barnabas, John Mark’s cousin, helped them in this missionary work. The first stop on the journey was the island of Cyprus. They travelled there by ship.

Some people on the island of Cyprus did not listen to Barnabas and Saul and some got angry but many other people began believing in Jesus.

Saul had two names.

  • Saul = His Jewish name.
  • Paul = His Roman name.

So, from this time onward Saul became known as Paul

From Cyprus Paul and Barnabas left the island of Cyprus and sailed in a ship to the mainland. This part of the world was called “Asia Minor” and there were many places to do missionary work there.

There was a disagreement among the three missionaries. Paul and Barnabas continued on the journey but Barnabas’ cousin, John Mark, decided to leave them and go back to Jerusalem.

Paul and Barnabas travelled to a number of towns teaching about Jesus.

Again, some people believed what Paul and Barnabas were saying and some did not. Some leaders became so angry 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 Jesus Paul healed the man. The man stood up and walked! Everyone was amazed.

But the problem was that people were excited about the wrong thing! Instead of giving glory to God and Jesus, they began worshipping Paul and Barnabas because they believed they were gods. More and more people started worshipping Paul and Barnabas just like they had worshipped the other idols in their city. 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 and everything in the world.

Almost everyone in the crowd was saying this was true. What do you think? If EVERYONE in a crowd is screaming and yelling and saying something is true, does that mean it is true?
No! 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! Paul and Barnabas were not gods. There is only one true God. Paul and Barnabas were just men.

And then some more trouble happened. Some of the angry leaders from the other places Paul and Barnabas had visited 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.

Paul and Barnabas travelled to a place called Derbe. After that they 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.

Click here to download the slideshow or click here for the printable illustrations.
Be selective. Each teacher is unique so only use the illustrations that best relate to the way YOU are telling the story in THIS lesson. Too many illustrations can be confusing so eliminate any that cover other stories or details you do not wish to emphasise in this lesson.

Or use the video below.

Review Questions:

  1. What is a miracle? the event that cannot happen naturally but only through God’s power
  2. 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.
  3. When the Jews said bad things about Paul in Lystra what did the crowd do? They stoned Paul and drug him out of town.
  4. 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.

Song Suggestions:

Learning Activities and Crafts:

(How to choose the best learning activities for my teaching situation)


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • To review, either you or the children can draw a large outline of Paul on a whiteboard or piece of paper (even drawing with a stick in the sand works fine if you are outside).  Then, after you have taught the lesson ask the children to think about what they have just learned from the Bible.  Have them write descriptive words and/or draw pictures inside and around the outlined illustration of Paul.  When you see what the children are writing or drawing you may be surprised or encouraged by what insights they have picked up from the story.  This is also a good opportunity to correct or add to anything you might not have covered as well as you could have when you were teaching.
    If you prefer, you can download and print the illustration of Paul provided here and then  have the children write and draw on it for the review.
  • Alternatively, if you are teaching a series of lessons 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.
  • Click here for the 16 lessons about the Life of Paul grouped together as a set.


  • Make a relief map of Paul’s Journeys featuring the place in today’s story. If you are studying about Paul’s journeys 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
  • 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


Check the Teaching Ideas page on this website for ideas that are adaptable to any lesson.

Link to full list of printablesClick here for “Paul’s 1st Missionary Journey-Lystra” printables to print (A4 paper)
Click here for “Paul’s 1st Missionary Journey-Lystra” to print (Letter size-USA)

Other Online Resources:


Paul_s First Missionary Journey-Lystra Pin

One thought on “Angry Crowd in Lystra- Paul’s 1st Journey

  1. In the USA, we have a game called Simon says. Commands are said to the group like, “Simon says clap your hands” or “Simon says hop on one foot” and the group follows directions. If a command is given without saying the words “Simon says”, the group should not follow the direction and any child who does perform the action is out of the game. The game could be adapted for this story. Perhaps Simon’s name could be changed to Paul or Barnabas. The actions could be appropriate to the story like “Paul says to shake your neighbor’s hand” or “Barnabas says tell a friend Jesus loves you”. Actions WITHOUT “Paul says” or “Barnabas says” could things like stomp your foot or make a frowny face.

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