But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city (Lystra), supposing that he was dead. 20 But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. 21 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. – Acts 14:19-22
Stoning was the prevailing form of capital punishment in Biblical times. Stoning was not intended as a punishment, but a death sentence. The actual process of stoning is not well understood today. It is popularly imagined as people taking up palm-size stones and pelting a person to death. That imaginary process could require hours of time and hundreds of people. In reality, men would seize large rocks, discarded building blocks, broken stone pavers, and other large rubble. The idea was to drop such heavy stones on the victim, preferably from a height, so as to break bones and crush the skull. That process could take only a few minutes. Such was the stoning Paul endured at Lystra.
Incredibly, Paul “rose up” after this stoning. He had somehow escaped sure death. We can only believe it was a miracle of God. As God once delivered Daniel from the lions’ den, and Daniel’s three friends from the fiery furnace, so He delivered Paul from stoning.
Even more incredible is what Paul did next. Having been dragged out of the town of Lystra and stoned to death, Paul got up and walked back into the city! That is courage beyond comprehension. More than that, it is evidence of God’s power in Paul. Paul wrote “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” -Philippians 4:13. “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:10. On top of that, having finished their missionary tour in the area, Paul and his companions returned to Lystra to strengthen the saints. The devil nearly killed Paul, but nothing could stop him. Christ was in him, empowering and protecting him. He suffered much, but he triumphed in the end.
You may feel a little like Paul these days. The stones just keep piling upon us and around us. The virus, fear, anxiety, lost jobs, lost wages, teaching kids at home, worrying about vulnerable family and friends. When you are weak, lean on Christ’s strength. When you feel overwhelmed, stand up, and by God’s strength walk right back into your Lystra. By the example of Paul, God encourages us “to continue in the faith, saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”