On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45 When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy. They began to contradict what Paul was saying and heaped abuse on him.46 Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. 47 For this is what the Lord has commanded us:
“‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” (Isaiah 42:6 and 49:6)
Chapter 13 marks a transition in the book of Acts from the mission of the apostle Peter, to the apostle Paul. Paul is set apart by the Holy Spirit and the church at Antioch. He and Barnabas are then led by the Holy Spirit to go to Cyprus, an island just west of the coast. From there they went on to Pisidian Antioch, which was in modern day Turkey. As would be his normal practice, Paul went into the synagogue to preach to his Jewish brothers and sisters. There were also God-fearing Gentiles, who had converted to Judaism.
As you read in this chapter, Paul gives a full account of Israel's history, and how God had made promises to Abraham their father, for him to be a light to all nations. Paul starts with Israel's prosperity in Egypt, and then their sojourn in the desert. Next, the Conquest of Canaan and 7 tribes there. But Israel was unfaithful and God sent judges. Samuel, the prophet, anointed Saul as the first king of Israel. Then God chose King David a man after God's own heart and made a royal covenant that from his line would come the Messiah. The people were curious and very intrigued, and they invited Paul and Barnabas back on the next Sabbath. This time a crowd came, and the Jewish leaders got jealous. They sabotaged Paul's preaching, and he left the town by shaking the dust off his feet, a sign against them. But many of the Gentiles believed and followed Paul and Barnabas to Iconium and became disciples.
Although Paul clearly showed the Jewish leaders how Jesus was the fulfillment of the promises given to their forefathers Abraham and David, jealousy prevented them from coming to belief in their message. Their pride kept them from coming to know the true Messiah and find forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Pride is a very dangerous thing. Pride rejects the truth for self preservation and self promotion. Notice the word "self" is in both. Sometimes the biggest obstacle to what God wants to do in our lives is pride. Even when we become a believer, pride is always there beckoning us back. Pride usually creates jealousy, which if acted upon becomes toxic for the life of a church.
Where is there pride in your life? Where are you overly-defensive, or overly sensitive? These reactions are usually triggered by pride. The opposite is humility which Paul defines as, "Considering others as better than yourselves." On Christmas Day Jesus took the ultimate step of humility, when he stepped out of heaven, and emptied himself to become one of us. With Jesus as our model and the power of the Holy Spirit, we can learn to die to self and ego, and live for others. This is what it means be a disciple of Jesus.