Lystra: A Lame Man Healed & the Reaction Part 1
by John Lowe
Paul said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked.
November 2, 2014
Scripture (Acts 14:8-10; KJV) Part 1
8 And there sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother's womb, who never had walked:
9 The same heard Paul speak: who stedfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed,
10 Said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked.
The principal episode of chapter 14 takes place in Lystra. It begins with Paul healing a cripple there (Part 1: vs. 8-10). This caused a remarkable reaction from the native Lystrans, who attempted to worship the apostles as gods (Part 2: vs. 11-13). The attempted homage of the populous prompted a strong protest from Paul and Barnabas, which was mainly expressed in a brief sermon (Part 3: vs. 14-18). Ironically, the Lystran ministry was concluded when the same crowd who tried to worship Paul and Barnabas turned against Paul and tried to stone him to death (Part 4: vs. 19-20a).
Lystra was located in the hill country of the Roman province of Galatia and surrounded by mountains, it was a small country town in Paul’s day. Its main significance was as a Roman military post, and for that reason, it was given the status of a colony in 6 b.c. A Roman military road connected it with the other colony city in the region, Pisidian Antioch, 100 miles or so to the northwest; it was about eighteen miles southwest of Iconium. This was the first of three visits Paul made to this city, and what an eventful visit it was! On his second missionary journey, Paul enlisted Timothy in Lystra (16:1-5); and he made a visit to the new church in Lystra on his third journey as well (18:23).
As we have seen, Paul and Barnabas had the gifts of an apostle, the sign gifts. They came into these places without any New Testament with the message of the gospel. What were there credentials? How could they prove their message was from God? The sign gifts were their credentials—they needed them. Today we have the entire Bible, and what people need today is to study this Bible and to learn what it has to say. If only we could get other people to do that!
In the first century, the apostles performed miracles, and men got their eyes on the apostles. So it was necessary to get their eyes off the apostles and turn them to the Book which presents the Lord Jesus Christ. You need to get your eyes on the Lord Jesus Christ. All these other men you mention are not even going to enter into the picture when you stand before Jesus someday. The only question will be your personal relationship to Jesus Christ as it is revealed in the Word of God. Go to the Word of God! The people of Lystra were looking to Paul and Barnabas.
The clause, “The same heard Paul speak” refers to ordinary conversation, though it can refer to formal speaking. It is likely that Paul was simply conversing with some of the citizens in the “open air” marketplace, telling them about Jesus (of His miracles of healing and his present power), and the lame man overheard what he said. The Word produced faith—“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17)—and faith brought healing.
The dire circumstances of this unfortunate crippled man are seen in the repeated idea: “impotent in his feet, a cripple from his mother's womb, never had walked.” Apparently, there was no Jewish synagogue in Lystra, so God used a different thrust, the healing of this helpless cripple, to bring the Gospel to these people. For the first time, Paul and Barnabas witnessed exclusively to Gentiles. It was not easy, because there were major communication problems.
The healing of the lame man at the temple of Zeus just outside the city, has many features in common with Peter’s healing of Aeneas (9:32-35) and particularly with his healing the lame man at the temple gate (3:2-10). Like the latter, this man had been lame from his birth, the apostle perceived that he registered enough faith to be cured, and commanded him to stand up on his feet. Also, like the man at the Beautiful Gate, this man leaped up and walked about when he was healed. Luke does not call attention to the similarities of the two healings, although the only difference between them is that Paul saw that the man had faith. While Luke does not say that the lame man whom Peter healed had faith when the act was performed, he inserts the faith of the cripple in Peter’s speech—“By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus' name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see” (Acts 3:16).Had their lameness been caused by disease or accident, the cure might have been attributed to a sudden change in their health. As it was, the cure was obviously miraculous. The similarities between the two cases show Paul was equal to Peter in his apostleship.
There are differences in the two narratives. In this instance, the man showed a glimmer of faith (v. 9)1. Perhaps it was in response to Paul’s speaking; he may well have been bearing testimony to the Gospel. In any event, the healing is told with the utmost brevity. Paul directed him to stand, because of what he saw in his face. He saw “that he had faith to be healed;” and the man immediately jumped to his feet and began to walk about. Two things are revealed in that story: the faith of the man created by the preacher; as he listened to the story of the risen Christ he applied that story to his own particular need; and a preacher determining faith by the face of his listener. Every preacher knows the man who listens, and who, looking through that preacher, sees the truth, grasps it, and begins to apply it; the light of it is in his eye, and eagerness is manifested in his face. There was a great and magnificent irregularity in Paul’s preaching. He dared to stop and say to the man: “Stand upright on thy feet.” Then the man leaped up and walked.
There is no mention of the name of Jesus or the power of God, but our study of Acts has provided sufficient examples by now to know that it is indeed through the divine power that the miracle was produced (3:16; 4:30; 9:34). The people at Lystra did not know that, and this ignorance led them to the wrong reaction.
1 Faith is often connected to healings in the miracles of Jesus, usually noted by Jesus after the healing with the words “your faith hath made you whole” (Luke 7:50; 8:48; 17:19; 18:42). With the lame man at the temple gate, there is no mention of faith in the healing story, but Peter did seem to refer to it in his subsequent sermon (Acts 3:16).