28:3 But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand. 4 So when the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped the sea, yet justice does not allow to live.” 5 But he shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. 6 However, they were expecting that he would swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had looked for a long time and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god.
I like meeting barbarians. I find in them a reflection of myself. They are decent folk but unstable. They don't act from truth, they react based on ever changing circumstances. What do I mean?
Look at the brief few moments described above. They meet a stranger who floats onto their beach from a shipwreck. They find out he is a prisoner enroute to Rome. Like me they become suspicious and wary. Soon after a viper attacks him and quickly, even immediately they determine it is divine payment for his evil deeds. Fate has struck him down. However he doesn't die. Stunned by this unexpected and unexplainable turn of events they flip flop and decide he is a god.
What do they know for sure about Paul? Very little. What about are they willing to conclude about Paul? A whole lot. They know little but from that little draw much. Too much. First he is a murderer suffering the vengeance of fate and then he is a god, above the weakness of mere men.
What a contrast we are compared to Jesus. We rise and fall and twist and turn with the ever changing circumstances of life. One minute we are swearing allegiance to Jesus and the next we are denying we ever knew Him. One moment we are willing to follow, obey Him, and crown Him king because He provided a free lunch, but the next we are screaming "Don't you care that I'm dying?!!" because it started to rain.
One day we promise "Whatever You say, that's what we will do." A few days later we're behaving liked depraved fools. Who are we? We are barbarians. Our beliefs are based on the here and now. If things are good, God is good. If things are bad we doubt there even is a God.
Contrast that with Jesus. He was human like us. He had not a single advantage over us. When He became one of us it was the complete package. The miracles that happened were just like the ones the disciples did later or Elijah did before Him. They were simply answers to His human prayers. The miracles were all done by God. That's why He declared: "I can by Myself do nothing."
As a human he was tossed about by human emotions just like we are. Circumstances affected Him just as they affect us. He knew frustration and impatience. He knew hurt feelings and betrayal. It hurt Him every bit as much as it hurts us.
However there was a difference. Deeper than the changing tide of circumstances Jesus lived and acted by truth. He did not react based on external events. He instead chose to act on what He knew to be true.
There are many examples but only one is necessary to put this in perspective.
When He was dying the ordeal turned determined Peter into a puddle of failure. The pressures of the moment and the tidal wave of circumstances flipped him upside down as quickly as the barbarians changed their tune about Paul. However Jesus was living the exact same circumstances only much more directly. What Peter was watching, Jesus was living. Peter was doing the betraying. Jesus was being betrayed.
It got so awful and so dark that day that Jesus encapsulated all the feelings and pressure with one question. "My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?"
Yet the day wasn't over. Jesus was not finished talking. His last words were "Father into Your hands do I commit My Spirit."
He felt betrayed but acted from truth. Rather than react based on the very real circumstances and the feelings they generated He acted based on what He knew was true even if at the moment that truth of His Father’s unfailing love could not be seen or felt.
I like meeting barbarians because I recognize in them that as a fool tossed about by the every shifting events of life I am not alone. However I long to become like Jesus. I long to still be real and still feel everything for what it is, yet have my soul anchored in truths so deep and so real that no circumstances can move me from them.