“Returning to the Scene to Strengthen Souls”

Returning to the Scene to Strengthen Souls

Wade Webster

One of the most amazing scenes in the book of Acts is recorded in the fourteenth chapter. We read, “Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city. And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe. And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed” (Acts 14:19-23).

Jewish zealots pursued Paul everywhere he went. They had almost stoned him at Iconium (Acts 14:1-7). Somehow, he had escaped their grasp. At Lystra, they would catch up to him again. This time, they would succeed. (well, almost). Believing that Paul was dead, they left his mangled body in a bloody heap. These Jewish zealots must have strode away satisfied that they had finally silenced Paul. However, when the brethren gathered around Paul to collect his body for burial, he rose up. Battered and bruised physically, Paul departed from Lystra, and preached at Derbe. One can only imagine how sore and stiff that he was in the days following his stoning. There must have been deep bruises, painful abrasions, and broken bones. He must have looked like he had been run over by a dump truck.

Just as soon as Paul was well enough to travel, he was back on the road to Lystra. Why would he go back to the scene of the crime? Why would he go back to where he was stoned and left for dead? It wasn’t about him. It wasn’t a matter of getting back on the horse. It was about them. It was a matter of getting them to heaven. Having regained his physical strength, Paul was going back to strengthen their souls. After all, they lived among the rock throwers. Paul was going back to exhort them to be faithful, explaining that through much tribulation we must enter into the kingdom of God. It must have been encouraging for them to see Paul again. No doubt, when Paul limped out of Lystra after being stoned and left for dead, they must have thought that they would never see him again. Yet, here he was. He had not given up. He had not gone into hiding. It would take more than a few rocks to stop him. If Paul had not quit, how could they?

When we are tempted to quit (and we will be), let us remember Paul. Let us see him rising from that pile of rocks. Let us see him returning to that very spot to encourage others to remain faithful.