Acts 14:14

Cannon, pointed right at you.

Wednesday, 15 February 2023

But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out Acts 14:14

Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen).

You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).

In the previous verse, the priest of Zeus brought oxen and garlands to the gate of the city intending to sacrifice with the multitudes. In response to this come Luke’s next words, saying, “But when the apostles.” There is this sudden realization that whatever had been occurring around them was not at all what they had thought.

The people were crying out in the local language and the apostles probably thought they were excited about the gospel message. But now, seeing what is taking place, they have come to the realization that their thinking was entirely incorrect. Instead of calling out for Jesus, the multitudes were crying out for a sacrifice to their “gods” who had come among them. In response to this, the words continue with, “Barnabas and Paul.”

Here, Barnabas is placed first in the account. Paul was speaking and Barnabas was probably more closely paying attention to the events around them. When the realization of what had begun to transpire came to their minds, he probably shouted something out to Paul and started their actions in motion. This is speculation, but it fits with the word order of Luke. Together, when they “heard this, they tore their clothes.”

The word “tore” is an aorist participle. It says, “having torn.” They first did this and then their actions continued. It was an open display to catch the people’s attention, and it is a sign of the greatest distress and even anguish. The first time it is mentioned in Scripture is when the brothers of Joseph had sold him off to the Midianite traders to be taken down to Egypt. Reuben was unaware of it –

“Then Reuben returned to the pit, and indeed Joseph was not in the pit; and he tore his clothes. 30 And he returned to his brothers and said, ‘The lad is no more; and I, where shall I go?’” Genesis 37:29, 30

So great of a mark of distress is this that the high priest of Israel was forbidden to ever do it, for any reason –

He who is the high priest among his brethren, on whose head the anointing oil was poured and who is consecrated to wear the garments, shall not uncover his head nor tear his clothes.” Leviticus 21:10

The reason for this prohibition is that he was distinguished by the office of high priest. This was elsewhere explicitly noted in the mentioning of the anointing oil that was poured on him. He alone was allowed to wear the garments of the high priest. These two things in particular distinguished him as Israel’s high priest.

As seen, first and foremost he was commanded not to uncover his head. Specifically, this meant that he was not to allow his hair to be loosed, meaning be unkempt. This was a sign of mourning, and he was never to demonstrate such an attitude. He was, above all, to always be holy to the Lord.

Further, he was not to tear his clothes. To do so, as noted above, was an indication of distress or anguish. As the intercessor between the Lord and the people, his conduct in one of these ways would give either a sense of utter despair to the people, or that he was impugning the Lord’s fairness, justice, or ability to control any given situation. It is ironic that this primary command to the high priest of Israel was openly disobeyed in the presence of the incarnate Lord (Jesus) who gave the command –

“And the high priest arose and said to Him, ‘Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?’ 63 But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, ‘I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!’
64 Jesus said to him, ‘It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.’
65 Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, ‘He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy! 66 What do you think?’” Matthew 26:62-66

Jesus was placed under oath by the high priest. Because of the position of the high priest, He was bound by the Law of Moses, which He gave to Israel, to tell the truth. He did, and therefore He remained without guilt in the matter. And yet, the high priest was guilty of violating a precept of the very law that he said Jesus was guilty of violating. There is a lot of irony that runs through the Bible that is truly amazing when such things are put in their proper light.

With this background concerning the tearing of garments, one can see what a great display of grief is occurring with Barnabas and Paul tearing theirs. Whether those in Lystra understood the significance of the act or not could be debated, but a “god” would never have done such a thing. So even if the act was cultural and isolated from the understanding of its full significance, it would still have been comprehended on some level. After this, it says they “ran in among the multitude, crying out.”

The word translated as “ran in” is eispédaó. It literally means “to leap in,” or “to spring in.” They were probably standing on something to elevate them. This would allow them to speak to the people while being seen. In their horror at the scene, and after having openly torn their garments, they jumped into the crowd crying out. What they were crying out will be seen in the next verse.

As a side note, some translations of the word eispédaó rather use the prefix ex instead of eis. Thus, it would say they sprang out into the crowd. If your translation says this, make a mental note of the difference, but the overall intent remains the same because the word is followed in the Greek in either text with the word eis. And so, they either sprang in, into the crowd, or they sprang out, into the crowd.

Life application: Making note of the unusual things that occur in the Bible, like the tearing of garments, can be a great exercise in discovering other truths that are recorded there. As noted above, the high priest of Israel violated the very law that he was charged with while charging Jesus with violating the law. Jesus could have called him out on this, but He silently took His trial and the resulting punishments without protest.

This shows us the nature of the love of God for the people of the world. The highest official in Israel, and the one who was to mediate between God and the people, was guilty of violating the very law that he was charged with overseeing and mediating. This is true with every high priest who ever lived under the law. How imperfectly the Law of Moses could satisfy the appeasement of God who is infinitely holy!

And yet, despite these things, even the high priest was given grace each year on the Day of Atonement. And the Day of Atonement was given as an anticipation of the coming of Christ. All the symbolism of the sacrifices of the law looked to His coming. And there He stood, being judged by the very people who were given the charge of that law.

Now think of yourself. You were also to be condemned because of the sin in you. And yet, Jesus took all that you have done wrong upon Himself, if you will just believe. God asks you to acknowledge your sins, admit that you cannot save yourself, and place your trust in Him. In this, you will be justified from all things that the law could never justify a person from. Be pleased to commit your eternal soul to God through Jesus. You will prevail because He has prevailed!

Lord God, thank You for Jesus Christ our Lord who has done all things for us to be reconciled to You. Yes, thank You for Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.