Following the city-wide gathering to hear the Good News (v.44) the local Jews were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. Accepting of messages of God but totally unwilling to lose their singular status as His people some Jews flat refused to accept their long awaited Messiah and the multicultural unity that follows.
Paul explains to them the privilege and responsibility that comes with hearing the Word first (v.46, cf. Romans 1.16) and says, simply, that rejecting Jesus is to reject eternal life. Because of the rejection, Paul says with Scripture, the Good News has been offered to the Gentiles (Isaiah 49.6). This is met with rejoicing and glorifying and many believed, near and far (v.49).
Sadly the local Jewish population could not stand the integration of Gentiles into what they saw as their world and incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city against Paul and Barnabas.
Leaving town Paul and Barnabas turn the cultural tables on the Jews and [shake] off the dust from their feed against them. A gesture used by the Jews to show they are taking absolutely nothing of the unclean environment with them is here used against them to show them just how far they are from the truth. So close, yet so far. Paul and Barnabas head to Iconium and we read that the disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.
Despite everything that was going on in Antioch, the believers believed and were filled with joy.
Despite the local Jewish population forcing Paul and Barnabas out of town, the believers believed and were filled with joy.
Is that something we can say, too?
Despite everything that is going on around me, I still believe and am filled with joy?
Adam Clarke, a British theologian who lived in the early nineteenth century, wrote this, something to think on today:
“The happiness of a genuine Christian lies far beyond the reach of earthly disturbances, and is not affected by the changes and chances to which mortal things are exposed. The martyrs were more happy in the flames than their persecutors could be on their beds of down”.