Wednesday May 20, 2020
Acts of the Apostles
Chapter 21 & 22
As Paul makes his way back to Jerusalem he meets Agapus (a prophet) who symbolically ties Paul’s hands and feet as a way of foretelling the suffering Paul would endure. Undeterred, Paul insists on continuing to the city as the community says: “The Lord’s will be done.” (see Luke 22, 42). This marks the conclusion of Paul’s 3rd missionary journey.
In Jerusalem he tells the story of the Gentiles coming to faith; the community rejoices, but others are not so pleased by Paul’s apparent forgetfulness of his own traditions. Paul never objected to Jerusalem Christians observing some of the customs of Judaism, but insisted that Gentiles should not be required to do so. But he’s in hot water again.
Paul is accused of the same “crimes” that Stephen was accused of (Acts 6, 13). A Roman commander apprehends Paul (saving his life from a riot), but the crowd shouts “Away with him.” (Take a look at Luke 23, 18; I think you already know what you’ll find there.) Paul speaks Greek with the commander (it was the common language of the time and place) but speaks his native Hebrew when addressing the crowd. He proudly proclaims his Jewish heritage, mentioning Gamaliel (Acts 5, 34f) as one of his teachers. Paul then tells the story of his journey from disbelief to belief, witnessing to the power of the Risen Christ. The crowd is not appeased, and Paul is thrown into prison. About to be scourged, Paul plays his “Roman citizen” card and is spared that ordeal. You might say that in switching from Greek to Hebrew and mentioning “I’m a Roman citizen,” Paul was being shrewd. You’d be right. In Luke 10, 3 Jesus reminds His disciples that they will be as vulnerable as sheep among wolves. To this warning, Matthew adds Jesus words: “Be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves (Matthew 10,16).
Paul’s troubles in Jerusalem aren’t over yet. The Roman commander turns him over to the Sanhedrin (court) for interrogation. Do you remember Who else was forced to appear before the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem? (Luke 22, 66).
Something to consider:
Speaking to the people in chapter 22, Paul doesn’t talk about doctrines or disciplines. Instead, he tells the story of the way Jesus works in his life: moving him from persecutor to preacher, from disbelief to belief. He witnesses to the presence and power of Jesus in his life story.
Which approach do you think might achieve more in introducing people to Jesus?
Homework: Read Chapters 23, 24, 25, 26 (we’re in the home stretch)