The next sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy; and blaspheming, they contradicted what was spoken by Paul. Then both Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to you. Since you reject it and judge yourselves to be unworthy of eternal life, we are now turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, ‘I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles, so that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”
When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and praised the word of the Lord; and as many as had been destined for eternal life became believers. Thus the word of the Lord spread throughout the region. But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, and stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their region.
So they shook the dust off their feet in protest against them, and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
Imagine standing in a crowd with almost everyone you know. You are there to hear what Paul and Barnabas, who are leading what is essentially a new movement, have to say about Jesus. You are not Jewish, but you know that Jesus was a Jew, and that the apostles and other early disciples were Jewish. While you hear their words, and believe that Jesus was the Son of God, you fear that you will be turned away because you are not Jewish.
Then, imagine the shouting match between Paul and Barnabas and the Jewish authorities. Paul basically tells them that because they chose not to believe in Christ, God has sent them “to be a light for the Gentiles,” expanding the promise of salvation to you. What does that feel like, to know that Jesus wants you. He wants you to believe, and to follow him.
This isn’t something that only happened 2000 years ago. Jesus extends that invitation to follow to each of us today. How will you respond?
—The Jesuit Prayer team
Will you come and follow me
If I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know
And never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown,
Will you let my name be known,
Will you let my life be grown in you,
And you in me?
—Verse 1, The Summons, text © 1987, The Iona Community
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