The same thing occurred in Iconium, where Paul and Barnabas went into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks became believers. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who testified to the word of his grace by granting signs and wonders to be done through them. But the residents of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, and some with the apostles. And when an attempt was made by both Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to maltreat them and to stone them, the apostles learned of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country; and there they continued proclaiming the good news.
Word of Hope
There is something about this passage that I had to think about. When I first read it, I thought there was something strange in it; but I couldn’t quite figure out what that was. Then, after several readings it hit me. Paul and Barnabas went into the synagogue and spoke to Jews and Greeks! It was not just Jews in the synagogue but Greeks, too. Even though they are together in one place, it is the people, not the building.
Then it says unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles against the brothers who were run out of town.
What happened? Jews and Greeks in the synagogue give way to unbelieving Jews and Gentiles. I know these are not the same groups. But the association is clear. Jews and Greeks are in the synagogue together. The synagogue is a place of learning, worship, faith. The implication is that the Greeks are essentially Jewish, if not by birth at least by belief. And a great number of these became believers in what Paul and Barnabas are speaking.
But the non-believing Jews and the non-believing Greeks (now called Gentiles) along with their ruling classes stir up trouble. This is not new. The same thing happened to Jesus.
Herein is another difference. Jesus was crucified; Paul and Barnabas leave before they are stoned to death.
This is not to say Paul and Barnabas were cowards. But Jesus had fulfilled all the obligations of physical death. Paul and Barnabas had experienced the death to self that comes from being a believer. They have spoken, done what they can, and moving on. Their purpose is to spread the Word. Just as it has for them, as it has in Jerusalem, as it will be, the Word spreads.
It is the people who make up the church. And as time goes by and believers find themselves hiding in Roman catacombs, dying in coliseums, burned at the stake; their faith in the power of the Word will endure in those who come after them.
Dearest God, may we live as the Jews and Greeks of Iconium of old. Help us to be the church so we can be a witness of peace and truth to all.
Order of Saint Francis and Saint Clar