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In Lystra

by Tim O'Hearn

First let me introduce myself. My Greek name, which I mostly use, is Timotheus. My father, after all, is Greek. My mother is Jewish. It makes for an interesting family life sometimes. He can tolerate her holidays and customs, but she has a hard time participating in his. He considers me Greek; she considers me Jewish. For a long time I wasnít sure which I was. Then some things happened that made me realize I donít have to be one or the other. I can choose a broader citizenship.

It all started when two guys and their entourage came to town. They came wandering in from Iconium, up north, and began teaching about some Jewish man named Jesus. They said the Jewish leaders had executed him, but he rose from the grave three days later. They talked about sin and salvation. Now these were things my mother might be interested in, but my father was a pragmatist. You live, you die, you donít come back to life. It was all interesting, but was I supposed to believe it or not.

I happened to be listening to them when he interrupted his speech. There was a beggar in the crowd whom we all knew. He couldnít walk, having been born a cripple. He may have come hoping that a crowd would mean a larger income that day. Or he may have wanted to hear what this man, Paul, had to say. Paul was pretty much one of us, you see. He came from Tarsus, which is just down the road a ways. Well, a couple of days away, but in our world that makes you practically a neighbor.

As I said, Paul interrupted his speech. He was staring at this man. I thought maybe he was going to give him some money and ask him to leave. Instead, he told the man to stand up. A few people near me started to laugh, until the man stood up and started jumping around. Everyone stopped laughing.

There were a lot of Greeks in the audience, and a few Jews. The Greeks started calling Paul Hermes and his companion, who went by the name of Barnabas, Zeus. After all, Paul was a gifted speaker, and why would Hermes be traveling without Zeus? My father was in a group of men who ran to put garlands on an ox and accompany the priest of Zeus to make sacrifice to these gods. Paul and Barnabas and their companions insisted, however, that they were just men. In fact, they said, they represented a greater god than Zeus. This was a new thing. This God made everything, and gives all good things. They were not gods, but represented this God. He was, coincidentally, the God that my mother believed in. And this Jesus that he talked about was the Son of God. Now this piqued my interest.

It seemed, however, that my motherís people were not as impressed as my fatherís. Some Jews from Antioch and Iconium heard that Paul was teaching here, and they came to town to accuse him. They were able to find a couple of witnesses to convict him of blasphemy, and stoned him. His companions barely avoided the same fate.

I was sitting in the city gate when his companions made their way back to town. I marveled that they should be rejoicing because everybody had seen Paul die (or at least so we thought) under a pile of large rocks. I had watched as they dragged his apparently lifeless body out of town. But here came Paulís friends, laughing and singing; and Paul walked at their head as if nothing had happened. He went to his lodging place and spent the night, then left the next day for Derbe, down the road. By the time he came back through town some time later, there were quite a few of us who believed his message. After all, if he could get up from that, why couldnít this Jesus walk out of his grave?

Paul did come back to Lystra once after that. It was several years later, and I had grown into a young man. I had studied more about what my mother believed, and the more I studied, the more I was convinced about what Paul had preached. I became a believer in the Way. Apparently I had become a fairly knowledgeable believer, because Paul asked me to accompany him on his travels. And so I have done, through many joys and hardships.

(Based on Acts 14 and Acts 16:1)