devotion 8-10-15

Acts 18:1-6

After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2There he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, 3and, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together—by trade they were tentmakers. 4Every sabbath he would argue in the synagogue and would try to convince Jews and Greeks. 5When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with proclaiming the word, testifying to the Jews that the Messiah was Jesus. 6When they opposed and reviled him, in protest he shook the dust from his clothes and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”

Paul went on from Athens to Corinth – this is another of the places we will visit on our cruise in November. In Corinth, Paul met a man named Aquilla and his wife Priscilla. They were Jews who had recently been expelled from Rome under the emperor Claudius. We will hear a great deal more about them throughout Acts, and in several of Paul’s letters! These two disciples became close friends of Paul’s and worked with him all around the Mediterranean. Like Paul, they were tent-makers. For a time, Paul stayed and worked with them, and would argue in the synagogue and try to convince both the Jews and the Greeks. When Silas and Timothy finally caught up with him, coming from Macedonia, (remember, he had left them with the believers in Beroea when he went to Athens.) Paul spent more time in proclaiming the word and testifying that Jesus was the Messiah. Finally, the synagogue leaders began to oppose and revile him, and he shook the dust of their place from his clothes, telling them that he had done what he could for them and would not be responsible for their self-destruction, but that from then on he would go to the Gentiles.

In city after city, Paul had gone first to the synagogue to preach the good news of Christ, and had been run out of the synagogue and continued his mission to the Gentile people in the region. So – why did he become angry when the same thing happened in Corinth? Perhaps because he had stayed longer in the synagogue, because he knew these people, because he really did care about their souls, and he was disappointed that after all his arguments they could not see the truth! We all have trouble seeing truth when it contradicts what we hold near and dear to our hearts. In the diaspora (the scattered Jews), the synagogue and her leaders took on a new importance to the Jews. Most of them would never go to the temple; the synagogue had become a place of worship, not just a place of study. The leaders would have been the best educated and respected men in their community. And they held the tradition – it was tradition that had kept them Jews in the diaspora, had prevented their melding into the surrounding cultures. Paul came along, confronting the leaders, and suggesting a change in the tradition, telling them the Messiah had already come, and he was Messiah for the world, not just the Jews. It would have been a hard truth for the people to accept – it impacted the very idea of who they were!

We must constantly look into ourselves – do we deny truth because we feel threatened by it? Do we maintain our idea of who we are at the cost of someone else being themselves? Are we so tied to our own tradition that we would miss Jesus if he walked into our midst?

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