Acts 14:8–18 (ESV)✞: Paul and Barnabas at Lystra
In the last passage Paul and Barnabas were forced to flee Iconium, so they now end up at Lystra. They find a man who’s been crippled in his feet since birth, and Paul, “seeing that he had faith to be made well” (verse 9 (ESV)✞), tells the man to stand up – which he does!
The crowd is amazed, and cry out in Lycaonian1, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” (verse 11 (ESV)✞). They assume Barnabas is Zeus and Paul is Hermes. Verse 12 (ESV)✞ says that they assumed Paul was Hermes because he was the chief speaker, though it doesn’t say why they assume Barnabas is Zeus; perhaps he’s just older than Paul, or otherwise seems to be “in charge.”
Paul and Barnabas, however, are not happy about this:
14But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, 15“Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. 16In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. 17Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” 18Even with these words they scarcely restrained the people from offering sacrifice to them. (verses 14–18 (ESV)✞)
I once heard a preacher saying that he assumed this was probably one of Paul’s worst experiences: Paul lived his life to bring the Gospel to others, and here he was recieving the worship that should have been God’s!
I probably wouldn’t have taken this as seriously as Paul did; I might even have found it amusing, were I in his shoes. The older I get, however, the more seriously I would likely be to take something like this. (Not that it’s something I ever expect to happen to me; being mistaken for a god is very unlikely in my case…)
I didn’t know “Lycaonian” was a language, but apparently it was! ↩