Paul and Barnabus’ trip to Derbe may be some of the best comedy in the Bible. As you read the story, you can almost imagine Yakety Sax playing in the background as a Scooby-Doo style chase scene occurs.
First, Paul and Barnabus walk into town and do something we’ve seen Christians do throughout the book - heal a man who couldn’t walk. They continue on their way. Meanwhile, the crowds are whispering, trying to make sense of what happened - classic, sitcom misunderstanding in the works. In a matter of minutes, the town has decided that these two missionaries are Olympian Gods, the priest is leading a procession of sacrificial bulls and flowers, and everyone is ready to worship them. It’s a scene Monty Python might have shot on one of their tamer productions.
...and it all reverses course just as quickly. When Paul explains that they aren’t gods, the town decides that they must be imposters! In a flash, the sacrificial bulls are forgotten as the crowds pick up stones to kill them. [Cue cartoon chase sequence]
Popularity is a fickle thing. One minute you are the center of attention, the next you are forgotten, and the one after that you are the center of a very different kind of attention. There are times as a Christian that we can be tempted to seek popularity and approval from our peers. Some of us just tend to naturally attract attention for our personalities or appearance. Many of my students over the years have found an identity as a class clown after realizing that they can get people to like them - for a little while at least - if they can make them laugh. I’ve known more than a few people who went into preaching for similar reasons.
But the approval of others is always fleeting. The crowd laughs and then forgets the comedian a few minutes later. The new fashion is quickly forgotten as their seasons change a new line appears. The pastor once celebrated for his charismatic sermons is suddenly faced with an angry crowd insisting that he leave.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus cautions us not to, “store up for yourself treasure on earth, where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal…” but instead to store up treasure in heaven. Rather than build our worth on popularity or our ability to make others like us, God calls us to find significance in Him. Unlike our peers, His love isn’t fleeting but lasting. He doesn’t forget us as time passes, and His opinion doesn’t shift based on mood. Long after those we sought to make laugh have passed from this earth, He will still be there.
His opinion isn’t based on a facade. He sees us as we are. And He loves us still.