Our faces give away a lot, don’t they? As Paul is speaking at Lystra there was a man listening. We read that he was crippled from birth and had never walked. As he listens to Paul it becomes obvious to Paul that he believes what is being said and believes that the power of Jesus is available to him personally (v.9). Paul commands him to stand up, a huge change for a cripple, and he sprang up and began walking.
The miracle leaves the crowd in awe of what they saw, and in their own language (v.11) they assume that the Greek gods have visited them (v.12). Wanting to honour their perceived divine guests flowers are brought, animals for sacrifice are sought, and preparations are made (v.13).
This idea – that they are to be worshipped as gods – is repugnant to Paul and Barnabas (v.14) and they say this:
““Men, why are you doing these things? We too are men, with human natures just like you! We are proclaiming the good news to you, so that you should turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and everything that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to go their own ways, yet he did not leave himself without a witness by doing good, by giving you rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying you with food and your hearts with joy.”
Even by saying these things, they scarcely persuaded the crowds not to offer sacrifice to them”.
(Acts 14.15-18, NET)
These are strong words for people ready to make sacrifices to them and people so deeply engrained with pagan practices (v.15) but the truth will always feel strongly contradictory to those living against it.
This whole event shows us that whilst miracles are spectacular and to be marvelled at, they always point to something else. Here the people are enamoured with Paul and Barnabas rather than the God whose power was on display. They mistakenly thought Paul and Barnabas had the power to save, not the God who worked through them.
Simply, the people missed the point: miracles don’t save, God does, and He did it through Jesus (as no doubt Paul was proclaiming). To substantiate this claim, a man was healed. This was a sign, not the substance itself. It’s all too easy for us to become enamoured with the sign and not what it’s pointing to. When we do, though, we miss something even more spectacular.