“. . . all Jerusalem was in an uproar.”
The scene in Acts 21 might best be described as a riot. The people of the city had lost all sense of the Temple worship, and had become a violent mob determined to put Paul to death. Their rage escalated to the point where the Roman soldiers had to almost beat them back, in order to pull Paul out of their clutches. We read, when they reached the stairs (the way of escape) Paul could no longer walk on his own, but had to be carried by the soldiers. It seems that even after the arrival of the soldiers, the crowd was still taking shots at Paul.
We have all seen this kind of rage leading to riots. Some of us remember the Los Angeles riots of the 90′s, others back to the riots of the Civil Rights movement. People became enraged, violent and destructive. What was it that caused this intense, violent rage among the people of Jerusalem? What had Paul done that made them so angry? The fight started because someone falsely claimed Paul brought a Gentile into the Temple area. As things escalated, it became clear their rage was really brought on by the fact that Paul was teaching things that were not culturally acceptable. It was his preaching of ideas, contrary to popular opinion, that made him an enemy of the people.
The Gospel always has that effect. The teachings of Jesus are not just contrary to popular opinion in Paul’s day, but in every day. The Gospel message is counter-cultural in every age and to varying people groups. No matter when or where we live, when we believe, follow, and proclaim the teaching of Jesus, we will be going against the tide. The louder we speak, the more controversy will arise. This is due to the fact that Jesus came as king to set up a kingdom unlike any of the kingdoms of men. Remember Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2? He saw an image that represented the kingdoms of men, then he saw a kingdom unlike all others. He saw the Kingdom of God.
The teachings of Jesus are revolutionary, not because He wants to create an army and battle men, but because He loves humanity, and wants to save them. When you feel like the odd man out because you do not buy into the world’s view on sex, sexuality, marriage, worship, God, religion, human dignity, the unborn, or countless other positions, understand that you follow a different King, and are living for a different Kingdom.
Even in the midst of all this violence, Paul remained in love with the people of his world and desired for them to come to Christ. I pray we do not allow the opposition we face as believers, to turn us against the unbelieving world, but instead, to give us the resolve of Paul to see them won to Christ.
Questions for Acts 21
- Paul went sailing finally landing in Tyre. He met some disciples, they left the city and went and knelt down on the shore and prayed. Is the Lord nudging you to get together with some believers and pray?
- Paul ends up at Phillips house, a prophet named Agabus and gives a prophesy about Paul. Notice his response, how would you respond to these words?
- Paul finally makes it to Jerusalem and gets to spend time with James and the elders of the church, again discussing the Gentiles and the law. We all should be very thankful that God’s grace is always abundant when we are taught the Word (that we don’t always understand).
- In the temple, Paul is mobbed, beat up and arrested. Yet he still looks for an opportunity to share Christ. How diligent are we when things get tough? God wants to use you, don’t always look at the current circumstances, you never know when an opportunity will come!