Not how you look but how Jesus is looked upon – Monday, 5th week of Easter – Acts 14:5-18

While preparing this reflection I was looking for something new to write or say. We want things to look and feel different; black and white seems boring and a splash of colour may get the eyeballs. Hopefully, the reader or the viewers’ attention will be snatched away from the thousand other articles or channels on the Internet vying for your attention and be drawn to what “I” have to write or say.  Clever lines and well-articulated thoughts do draw people’s attention. Yet the reality is that God’s word is often repetitive for a reason and not to charm us every new season.  

Paul and Barnabas are on the first missionary journey that takes them from Antioch in Syria to the island of Cyprus and further to the coastal city of Perga in modern-day Turkey. From there they travel north, about 220 kilometers to Antioch of Pisidia (in Turkey) and then further east, to Iconium (14:1-7) and then south and southeast to Lystra and Derbe which were cities of Lycaonia.

Paula and Barnabas are missionaries who bring the NEWS of Jesus to draw people to a NEW way of life in Jesus in order to establish a NEW community of Jesus. Yet this mission of Paul and Barnabas is predictable and repetitive. There is no novelty when one goes out on mission. There are just two scenarios that play out; receptivity or resistance.

As I said earlier, you can look for something new to say in today’s text but that is clutching straws at best. If you look at today’s text, especially verses 8-18 it sounds so familiar. A reading of Acts 3 is when the penny drops. Paula and Barnabas do a Peter and John! The narration of what happens in Lystra almost seems to be cut, copy and paste job when you read what happened to Peter and John in the temple of Jerusalem.  

In both narrations there is a lame man from birth, in both cases the apostle looks at him intently. In both cases they were commanded to “stand up” and both sprang to their feet (allomai, in Greek). In both the narratives the response of the people was to create a ‘cult’ around the apostles which in Lystra went a step further to worship. In both cases the apostles sharply rebuke such a cult and reiterate the agenda of the mission; it is Christ alone who is to be proclaimed and worshipped.

What I write now is out of love and not jealousy or envy. (Perhaps some readers or viewers may allow their minds to drift towards such a thought.) The internet has opened up a new world for the work of evangelization and this field must be exploited to the fullest. The focus, however, cannot be on the evangelizer. This is a constant struggle which I must confess to having fallen prey to, from time to time. The very medium of the internet is fast and glitzy and there is a danger that the message is overshadowed by the messenger, the proclamation by the proclaimer.

We who proclaim Christ from a pulpit or a mass media platform must constantly ‘tear our clothes’ like Paul and Barnabas when we release that we were being ‘worshipped’ rather than Christ. While presentation helps, evangelizers must not get caught up in how they look but how Christ is looked upon.

Evangelists must review their mission and if need be, renew it. Satan will stop at nothing especially if he wants to snare a preacher with a billion followers on YouTube and distract him with incidentals (read himself) rather than focus on the mission (read Jesus).

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