Forming Faith Blog

Lost in Translation (Acts 13, 14)

The Holy Spirit calls Barnabas and Paul to spread the good news. When Paul performs a miracle in Lystra, the people rejoice and praise…the wrong gods!

a grayscale of the temple of hera ii in italy
Photo by Edoardo Colombo on
Easter Season and the Growing Church

By now we’ve reached the halfway point in the season of Easter with only four weeks before the end of the Narrative Lectionary year. In this season, we are learning about “what happened next” after the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Messiah. Just before his ascension, Jesus gave his Great Commission to his closest disciples, making them apostles (sent-ones). Last week, we witnessed a major shift in the trajectory of the Church when God connected the apostle Peter to a Roman centurion. The Gentiles are welcomed into the Body of Christ as much as the Jews. We see what happened next with the mission to the Gentiles with the introduction of the apostle Paul.

Setting the Scene

This particular NL year, we skip Saul’s conversion story (that’s covered in Year 4) in Acts 9 and jump to the Holy Spirit’s call for Barnabas and Paul to serve in chapter 13. [Note: Saul is the man’s Hebrew name while Paul is his Roman name. He never changes his name; he only changes which one he uses.] And most of the rest of the Book of Acts describes Paul living out his calling as the apostle to the Gentiles.

In the portion skipped in this reading (Acts 13:4–14:7), Paul and Barnabas are very busy. They go to Cyprus and have a confrontation with a magician, whom Paul curses to temporary blindness (interesting since Paul himself was blinded at the time of his conversion). The two then travel to Asia Minor where the soon-to-be-familiar pattern begins of Paul preaching in a synagogue and getting a great response before some group attacks him. Chapter 14 even starts with “The same thing occurred in Iconium” (Acts 14:1a).


A combination of Gentiles and Jews from Iconium threatened to stone the apostles, so they fled to Lystra. It’s at this point in Paul and Barnabas’ journey that the second part of our reading begins. Paul was speaking (preaching) in Lystra when he noticed a man listening who had had a malformation of his feet from birth. As Jesus often did, Paul saw the man’s faith and commanded him to get to his feet. The man didn’t just stand up, he sprang up! And that’s when the trouble started.


The appropriate response to seeing a miracle (in the New Testament, at least) is to praise God and have faith in God’s active presence. And this is exactly what happened…kinda. The people who witnessed this miracle did start praising and believing in the active presence of the divine. The problem was that their understanding of the divine was limited to the gods and goddesses of the Eastern Mediterranean, in this case, the Greek gods Zeus and Hermes. There was even a local myth that Zeus and Hermes had, in the distant past, visited this area disguised as humans, testing the locals. The people failed. They didn’t want to do that again.

The problem wasn’t really that the people reacted incorrectly to this miracle. The problem was that they didn’t yet have the correct worldview/context of the God of Israel and Jesus the Messiah. They went in the correct direction; they were just using the wrong map.


While I can sympathize with the Lycaonians, the reality is that they read the situation very, very wrong. And these monotheistic Jewish apostles were absolutely horrified that the people were trying to make them the objects of their idolatrous worship! Paul and Barnabas tried to correct the people and teach them about the true God. It worked…barely.

Stoning (After Our Reading)

That is where our assigned reading ends, but it is not where their adventure in Lystra ended. Remember those who opposed Paul and Barnabas in Antioch and Iconium previously? Well, they chased our protagonists to Lystra and did what they wanted to do before, stone Paul. Fortunately for Paul (and us), they didn’t kill him. After his would-be-killers left and other Jesus-followers arrived, Paul got up and went back into the city. I understand why this isn’t a part of the assigned reading, but it is a really good story nonetheless!

Faith Formation Connection

You can go in several different directions with these readings in terms of faith formation.

  • Focus on Acts 13:1-3, the idea of God calling/commissioning us, and the ritual of laying on of hands.
  • Include some cultural context by making sure participants are familiar with the Greek gods in question. I can’t be the only one who thinks ancient myths are cool.
  • Talk about how some things can be “lost in translation” or otherwise misunderstood, especially when two people are coming from different cultures.

May the joy of the risen Messiah be with you!

Gregory Rawn (Publisher)

Free Resource

During the main Narrative Lectionary year (this year: September 11 to May 28), we provide a free resource download from one of our products to help you in your faith formation ministry. This week, download a free activity “Translation” from our Living the Word: Kids (PK-2nd, NL) (Year 1, 2022-2023 and Year 2, 2023-2024) curriculum. This activity can be adapted for use by households, groups, and classes of any size or age range.

Order Faith Formation Resources

Looking for VBS, summer education, or even an Easter season series? Check out our Learning Together series! These five-lesson units are available on six different topics, one of which is FREE! The other five are much more affordable than standard VBS curricula with pricing starting at $25 for a program with 1-10 participants. Perfect for children’s and intergenerational ministries.

It’s not too late to order Spring lessons for our Narrative Lectionary and Revised Common Lectionary resources (going until Pentecost Sunday, May 28th)! As soon as your payment is processed you can download the lessons and start using them!

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