The Gods came down to us that day. Two strangers came into town and began speaking to everyone. I could feel something inside telling me, “Listen to these men. They will do you great good.” How true that was!
I was born defective. I couldn’t walk. My feet and legs were so twisted, so weak. Worthless. I was ashamed. I begged and I depended on my family for food. My poor father, he had no other son to lean on in his old age, and I was a twisted wreck. My mother wanted grandchildren so badly, but no woman would marry me. At least my sisters gave her grandchildren. But in a community of sheepherders, I was useless.
I felt peculiarly one with my country. I’m a Lycaonian, did I mention that? We have always been a small, neglected, not much desired province, now belonging to one city-state, then to another. Lycaonia … wasn’t worth fighting for. “Lycaonia” means “land of the wolf”, but any wolves that came into Lycaonia soon left. There just wasn’t much to stay for, even for a wolf.
I often wondered why I was born this way. I can’t believe that a child in the womb can sin, so I had no explanation. I still don’t understand, but since the day the Gods came down to us, it doesn’t matter.
I prayed to Zeus from my childhood, but by the time I reached my sixteenth year, I did so without enthusiasm or expectation. It seemd that Lycaonia and I were as unappealing to Zeus as to everyone else. Yet I still felt that there was Someone Who created us. I wondered why He had gone away and left us alone.
One year when my hair was first starting to turn gray, I pondered again the why of everything. Why was Lycaonia so pitiful? Why my disgusting, useless legs? Why is life so hard and dangerous, even for those whose legs work well?
Neither Zeus nor any of the many other gods around me had even spoken to me. I had prayed believing as a child, but after years of emptiness, for some reason I had recently begun to pray again. This time I didn’t pray to Zeus, but to “that God who created us”. It somehow felt right. I felt … as if I was heard by Someone. I was. I’m smiling as I think of it. And laughing for joy! I think I will smile for the rest of my life!
And then the two strangers walked into town, carrying themselves with a definite purpose. Confident. Assured. They began talking to Lycaonians, and what they said was, “We have a message for you all from the one true God!”
They began to talk about a man named Jesus, whom they said had lived a life without sin and allowed himself to be offered as a sacrifice to their God for the sins of all mankind. Which was a beautiful story, but when they said He had been resurrected from the dead by their God, Who was also His father in some way, I began to pay attention. They claimed to have seen this Man Who was more than a man after He was raised from the dead. Said they talked with Him, shared meals with Him. They claimed that He had raised the dead before His death, made the lame to walk, cast out demons, restored health to the sick … and now, they said, they were telling everyone about Him, because he offered life after death and forgiveness of sins to all who would believe.
I began to feel as if a river was pouring through me. I began to think against all reason that they were telling the truth and I … I could be healed too! So strange, but so powerful, this hope without a reason, this … belief. This faith!
Then the one called Paul looked into my eyes and commanded me in a loud, bold voice, “Stand up on your feet!” The instant he spoke those words, that river I felt pouring through me surged into my legs and feet, and I literally jumped up like a gazelle! I looked down and where there had been twisted bones and wasted flesh, there were two sound legs that looked like they could run without weariness for days! I felt STRENGTH and I began to jump and shout! I could not have stayed on the ground or held my peace for anything!
My countrymen began to shout at the top of their lungs, “The Gods have come down to us in human form!” And so they had, but it took a while for us to learn that it was this Jesus the strangers told us about Who was God as well as man. He not only offered eternal life, but because of His sacrifice-without-sin, His Father-in-Heaven offered forgiveness of all our sins!
The day’s rejoicng was soon marred by enemies who beat and stoned Paul. They thought they had killed him, but he lived. He and the other one, Barnabas, have gone now, but what they did will live as long as there are tongues to tell it! The God-Who-Is-Three-But-One, Whose name is Jehovah and Jesus, did come down to earth! And when He left, He left messengers. Now I have the honor of being one of those messengers, and I vow I will never be silent, in honor of the God Who healed me and forgave my sins!
His name is Jesus! He forgives sins! He offers eternal life in Paradise for those who believe Him! He cares for the insignificant, for those who don’t matter to anyone else, for those with broken bodies! Thank You, Father God in Heaven! I can never thank you enough!