Acts 14:8-10 – A Healing in Lystra

[This post was written by Adam Renberg, one of my “Advanced Studies in Acts” students. They are helping teach my undergrad Acts class a few times this semester, so I thought I would give them “guest blogger” status.]

In Acts 14:8-10, we see the first recorded miracle of Paul’s ministry as he heals a paralytic. This man, who was crippled from birth, was healed after he listened to Paul speak (presumably a sermon). Paul then calls to him to stand up, where he jumps up and starts to walk. While this is an astounding miracle, this type of miracle does not seem to be unique to Paul and his ministry. One very similar miracle account, recorded by Luke, can be found in Acts 3:1-10.

Paul healing a cripple at lystraIn this pericope, Peter and John are at the temple gate and heal a man who was also lame from birth. The similarities are as follow: Both start with a cripple, lame from birth (3:2, 14:8); Both Apostles stare at the cripples (3:4, 14:9); Both Cripples leapt up (3:6, 14:9). Many commentators see the parallels of these two passages as intentional comparisons by Luke to make a statement about the authority and ministry of Paul and Peter.

While the comparisons are obvious, there are also some large differences. In Peter’s case, he preforms the miracle in Jerusalem on a Jewish man, preaching to a Jewish audience (they would not let Gentiles into the temple gates). In Acts 14, the cripple and audience are completely Gentile at this point. In Acts 3, the healed man praises God, while the man in Acts 14 doesn’t have any recorded praise. Lastly, Paul doesn’t use the name of Jesus during his miracle, although he more than likely used it when talking to the paralytic before his healing.

Comparisons are often made between Peter and Paul for this account, but this type of miracle found its roots in Jesus. In Luke 5:17-26, we find another healing of a lame man. In this case, the man’s friends bring him to Jesus by lowering him into the house, where Jesus forgives his sins and tells him to “get up and walk.” While there are more similarities and differences in this passage, one of the most important phrases used is “when Jesus saw their faith,” where Jesus heals them because of their faith. This phrase, and its variations (such as, “your faith has made you well”) is very Lukan, not unlike Matthew’s use of “Kingdom of Heaven.”

With this in mind, what was Luke’s purpose in recording Paul’s miracle in Acts 14? If Luke intentionally compared it to Peter’s Miracle in Acts 3, it would seem that Luke is trying to compare Peter and Paul’s ministry to present validity and purpose to both of their missions. As it is the first recorded miracle of both Peter and Paul, one could argue that Luke was demonstrating that God ordained each of these men’s ministries. But as Peter’s miracle and sermon were successful in this passage, Paul’s seems to be a “failure” with little to no converts, and a stoning.

One the other hand, is it possible that Luke (in Luke 5) was alluding to Jesus when he uses the miracle account in Acts 14 to echo Jesus’ voice? Like Paul, Jesus was met with amazement, but also opposition from the Pharisees… the same party who more than likely sent the Jews to Lystra to stone Paul. If this were Luke’s intention, he would be giving Paul even more authority in comparing him directly to Jesus, making it obvious from whom Paul received his calling.

The last option is that Luke was not trying to allude to any other passages of scripture, and simply liked the phrase “your faith has made you well” when recounting miracles. He may have used a specific methodology for miracles, and all of these accounts fell under that “template.”

Do you think that Luke was trying to create allusions and comparisons between the ministry of Paul and Peter? Or Jesus? If this were the case, what should we infer from this comparison today?


17 thoughts on “Acts 14:8-10 – A Healing in Lystra

  1. I had never realized the connection between Peter and Paul ministry until it was brought up in class. It is very interesting how God used two men to reveal the light of God to people who were living in darkness. Looking at the verses following Peter’s miraculous work and Paul’s miraculous work, they were able to preach about the living God and encourage the people around them to worship the true God who has the power and ability to heal a broken heart that is consumed with sin. The actions that we do today can speak about what kind of people that we are and can point to the one that saves. Paul and Peter were representatives of Christ with the ability to show Christ through their miracles which gave them an opportunity to minister to those around them. People are continuously watching and you never know the impression you are giving to others by your actions.


  2. It is very clear what Luke does, especially if you parallel the Gospel of Luke and Acts together. Luke is really one of the only continued writers coming from Jesus’ time period where he has seen what Christ had did, as with Peter and Paul. Like Anna, I also did not realize such a connection with Peter and Paul’s ministries. One thing to remember though is Peter learned and was a disciple under Jesus, even though denial had brought his own reputation down. Paul did not. He had the revelation from Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). Yet, while Peter and Paul both healed a man, I think it’s plausible to say while these men were lame, healed, and had faith, I would jump for joy because I could walk (whether or not the man in Acts 14 recorded praise to God).


  3. While it could be argued that Luke is simply fond of the phrase, “your faith has made you well,” it seems too coincidental that he would give such similar miracle accounts without intending to draw any deeper connections between them. Although there are some differences in the details of the three healings of lame men, there are two connections that I think perhaps Luke was emphasizing. First, as previously noted, Luke specifies that the healing in all three of these stories takes place because of the paralytics’ faith. It is not simply enough to hear the message of one preaching (even if the preacher is Jesus himself!), but rather it is necessary to respond with the heart attitude of faith in God. The second connection which can be drawn (albeit more subtly) is that we see the same Spirit which empowered Jesus to have special knowledge (to look at a man and see that he has faith) and power to heal is now empowering Peter and Paul (and Paul himself references this idea in Romans 8:11 and I Corinthians 12:4). A miracle which alludes to the miracles of Jesus serves as a stamp of authentication to Paul’s ministry, while pointing back to the ministry of Christ himself.


  4. It does seem significant how Luke seems to tie this miracle in Acts 14 to the healing Peter performed in Acts 3 and then also to Luke 5, where Jesus heals a lame man. Whether or not Luke’s primary purpose in recording this healing was to validate Peter and Paul’s ministry under Christ, it definitely points us to that conclusion. It also alludes to the understanding, that Paul was not healing this man in his own strength. Through the tie to Jesus, it may also point to the power of the Spirit working out these miracles through Paul, because of what Christ had done on the cross. It is obvious that these people of Lystra did not come to this conclusion, for we read how they immediately thought Paul and Barnabas were gods to be worshiped and sacrificed to. My question is whether Paul and Barnabas lacked to communicate this working power of God through them, or the people were simply overcome by the sign they were seeing and only allowed in their minds one answer – that Paul and Barnabas were gods. I suppose as Gentiles that is all they would have known to gather from seeing this encounter. They have no background in the Scriptures to understand the power of God.
    The inferences that this comparison may have for us today remind us that we too, like Paul, should seek to imitate Christ. In John 13:34-35 Jesus tells his disciples that people will know them as his followers because they love others, even as Jesus loved them. As we are being transformed into resembling Jesus closer and closer, people will notice what kind of people we are. May we be letters of Christ that the world reads – reflecting his glory (2 Cor. 3:2-3).


  5. Like stated above, the healing that took place in Acts 14 with Paul and the crippled man is very similar to that the healing that took place in Acts 3 with Peter and Luke 5 with Jesus. I am not sure if Luke was trying to compare all three separate accounts when wrote them; however, I do think there is a reason he put both of the Acts healing accounts in the book. If one thinks about it, with Peters healing in Acts 3 this was a Jewish man at a Jewish synagogue (Renberg, article above). Gentiles were not even allowed in the synagogue at this point (Renberg, article above). When in Acts 14 the crippled man, as well as the crowd around them, are Gentile (Renberg, article above). Meaning, that Saul healed a Gentile man, not a Jew like Peter. This story was a way for God to show everyone He truly loved them and anyone who believed in Him could go to heaven. This story is an example of the calling God put on Paul’s life to go and send him to the Gentiles (Acts 22:21). Therefore, I believe by telling the two separate stories with one being a Jew and one being a Gentile it showed the new grace of God the story has been claiming since Acts 1.


  6. The healing in Lystra does seem to be important. Not just because of the similarities between this account, Acts 3, and Luke 5, but also because this healing alone was a big deal for Paul’s ministry. The similarities, however, are also important to notice as they hold worth. I believe this moment is specifically important for Paul’s ministry. Both Peter and Paul had a similar healing at the beginning of their ministry. That seems to be an important detail for their ministries. Jesus also performed a similar healing towards the beginning of His ministry. Perhaps all of these parallels were designed to show the authority that had been bestowed upon each of them (Renberg). They were doing the work of God on earth, empowered by the Spirit. This is an important detail in their ministries. In Paul’s case specifically the people reacted in a way that suggested that Paul and Barnabas were gods. This idea was not as far off a most readers of Acts would think. “In antiquity, those who could perform miracles and wonders were often thought to be divine or agents of the divine” (Jipp 94). Since Paul was in fact commissioned a sent out by a divine God this healing is a testament of the power that the Divine had in Paul’s life and in the world. The healing was crucial to the beginning of Paul’s ministry, but it also showed the divine authority that God had placed on His life when he accepted his calling.


  7. Each of the healings in the book of Acts may seem to be sometimes “out of place” but they serve an absolute great purpose. I think that Luke was trying to create some sort of comparison between all of these ministry accounts because, as the article writes about these comparisons made between the two, are often found having the roots of Jesus ministry. As we know Jesus was a healer. As well as many other things, but to have people within the bible do healings, these are very significant moments from within. We can easily understand that these accounts are all God inspired. I don’t think that these accounts of healing were to show off these healings as to show that Peter and Paul were great men f faith, but the healings were definenlty to show off the Authority of God’s power and his will. These men just reacted to the calling of God to do great things.


  8. This really interested me when I was reading Acts 14. I think it is amazing how God can show how amazing He is through other people. I thought of this right away when this passage showed Paul performing the miracle on the man who was lame. The man was crippled and instantly jumped up and was healed. The shows how great God’s power really is. As I mentioned in my last post, Acts shows a progression of Paul’s ministry. It shows how God has worked through Paul and how it can affect other people. At this time in history, Jipp mentions that gods were polytheistic and active in everyday life (Jipp, 94). This is why the citizens of Lystra looked at Paul and Barnabas as gods when they were in Lystra. This really interested me when I read that. But, as we know, there is only one true God. I think it is important to realize how other people think and be understanding, but we also need to be able to proclaim the gospel. It may be uncomfortable, but it is our duty as Christians to proclaim the gospel to all people and all nations.


  9. There are most certainly parallels that can be drawn from the works of Paul and Peter, and even to Jesus as well. The ministry journey and the things that Paul are doing definitely are reminiscent of other figures in the Bible, and there is a lot that we can draw from that. The connection that I know I can make to the modern day and to myself as well is that Jesus went out and served and did ministry, and we are called to do the same. Although we might not be committing miracles like healing the blind and the crippled, we still need to be the hands and feet of Jesus, and if we embrace and welcome this calling, then there is a lot that we can do through God. Paul’s miracle that is recorded isn’t Paul’s miracle, but is God’s miracle that is worked through Paul and a work of the Holy Spirit. That should be a direct parallel to how we approach ministry and how we should realize the fact that we are not doing ministry by ourselves, but we are doing the work of God and we are supposed to act as the hands and the feet of Jesus.


  10. I can definitely see similarities between the ministries of Paul and Peter. There are also even similarities between the ministries of Paul and Jesus. This is seen in the fact that they went out sharing the gospel and healing people. They told people of God’s love for them. They also showed that love for other people in the way that they treated others and were loving them the way that God loves us. They also healed those in need. While we may not be going out and healing those in need around us, we can still show them the love of God. We need to be going out and seeking to help those around us in need. We should be telling them about God’s love while also demonstrating it to them by loving them. If we are going out and doing this, God can use us in so many great ways to reach people for Him. We need to have Paul’s willingness to go and reach others for God.


  11. I think that there are comparisons between Jesus, Peter, and Paul’s miracles and I think the most important one is that they performed these miracles because of faith. Each of the people that were healed was healed because of their faith in Jesus or their willingness to listen to the gospel. “He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well…” (Acts 14:9). Paul knew that this man had faith in God. It is interesting to me that the lame men that both Peter and Paul performed miracles on were unable to walk since birth. I don’t think it was a coincidence for them to come across two men that would be eternally grateful to be able to walk for the first time. After Peters healing, the lame man rejoiced and praised God! I think that it was also no coincidence that Peter came across this man who went straight to praising God after his healing. When people saw this “they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him” (Acts 3:10). This showed people a glimpse of God and most likely arose questions about Jesus and the gospel. I think these accounts are significant because they brought several people to faith or at least to witness an act of Jesus.


  12. The comparisons between the miracle of healing the lame that Peter performed and the miracle Paul doing the same thing is evident in the book of Acts. The idea that this miracle that Peter and Paul performed can also be compared to the miracle that Jesus performed Luke is almost a reaffirming aspect in the ministry that Paul and Peter did. I do think that there is a significance Luke writing them the way that he did though. I think that Luke did this to show how the power of God was able to work through anyone. Peter was known for denying Jesus three times when he was put on trial and Paul was known for persecuting the Christians. The fact that they were able to perform the same type of miracle that Jesus did, reaffirms their ministry that they did. The thing that sticks out in all three of these miracles is the fact that all of these men were crippled at birth and had faith that they would be healed (Acts 14:9). They were healed by faith in something greater and were therefore, eternally grateful for the miracle performed on them. It shows us a glimpse of the greatness of God and how he is able to use anyone to perform the same miracles that his son performed.


    • Brea,

      You brought up an interesting point here. I would agree what Paul and Peter both did reaffirmed the miracle that Jesus performed and did through both of these men. Also, just liked how you mentioned it, it does not matter to Him at all of who a person might be and what they have done, God will use those that He knows will further His kingdom.


  13. I think that Luke was connecting Paul to Peter in with this miracle, because of the great similarity they have to one another. I also think that the result of Paul’s miracle was a great point to Luke’s story. The Jews were looking for a Messiah, and looking for A savior to save them from Rome and their oppressors, while the Gentiles were not necessarily looking for a Messiah or a Savior and really considered these acts to be more of acts of gods. I think that while Peter’s and Paul’s miracles were linked to each other I also think that they were compared to each to show the differences between the two’s ministries.


  14. Yes, I think that it is safe to say that Luke was definitely trying or meaning to make allusions and or comparisons between the ministry of not only Paul and Peter, but also Jesus as well. The main reason that I think Luke was meaning to do this was because of how both Paul and Peter were performing the miracles that they did in Jesus’ name. Basically, they trusted Jesus and the mission that he was trying to accomplish. What makes it more interesting is the fact that Jesus did miracles through Paul and Peter even. If you think about it a little more closely, Luke was simply just hinting at the fact that no matter the person, God is more than willing to work with anyone and everyone. The biggest proof of this concerning Peter comes from where he denied Jesus three times. With Paul, we all know that he used to go by the name of Saul, in which his sole mission was to continue persecuting Christian people. Once these two men saw what they were doing was wrong, they continued on with what Jesus was commanding them to do and preach the Gospel to those who needed the healing. The biggest examples of this would be when Peter healed the Lame Man outside of the temple gate (Acts 3), and then with Paul when he also healed a lame man who wasn’t able to walk since birth (Acts 14:8-10).


  15. Do you think that Luke was trying to create allusions and comparisons between the ministry of Paul and Peter? Or Jesus? If this were the case, what should we infer from this comparison today?

    When we look at the gospels we see a number of things that are repeated. There is a purpose for things to be repeated. All three of these moments when people got to visually see a man healed. That isn’t something that just a few people see and just say, “oh that’s normal,” no way! This probably spread like wildfire. Jesus did it and people thought it was amazing, but when two “normal guys” do something like that its a crazy moment and done completely on purpose for Gods mission to show the power of the Holy Spirit.
    This is an incredible opportunity for this man to have a testimony to share just what God has done for him and when people hear things like that they start to have a change start in their heart.

    Today we see miracles happen from healing of sickness and just the little things that God does in people’s lives. These testimonies that people have are sometimes similar but unique to that particular person. these are moments that are personal interactions with God where he truly reveals his powers to the world. We may live with a faith that not seeing is believing, but the miracles that we do get are things that are absolutely incredible. these are moments when we are at our weakest and God steps in and shows because we have trusted him he wants to bless us. when we share these things with people they can’t help but see how impacted our lives and they also want that in their lives.


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