Devotion 8-24-15

Acts 21:27-40

27When the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia, who had seen him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd. They seized him, 28shouting, “Fellow Israelites, help! This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against our people, our law, and this place; more than that, he has actually brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.” 29For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple. 30Then all the city was aroused, and the people rushed together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and immediately the doors were shut. 31While they were trying to kill him, word came to the tribune of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32Immediately he took soldiers and centurions and ran down to them. When they saw the tribune and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. 33Then the tribune came, arrested him, and ordered him to be bound with two chains; he inquired who he was and what he had done. 34Some in the crowd shouted one thing, some another; and as he could not learn the facts because of the uproar, he ordered him to be brought into the barracks. 35When Paul came to the steps, the violence of the mob was so great that he had to be carried by the soldiers. 36The crowd that followed kept shouting, “Away with him!” 37Just as Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the tribune, “May I say something to you?” The tribune replied, “Do you know Greek? 38Then you are not the Egyptian who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand assassins out into the wilderness?” 39Paul replied, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of an important city; I beg you, let me speak to the people.” 40When he had given him permission, Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the people for silence; and when there was a great hush, he addressed them in the Hebrew language, saying:

Paul and his group of missionaries and Gentile followers of Jesus were not the only travelers in Jerusalem; there were others, some of the Jews who had been against Paul in Asia, in the area around Ephesus. They recognized Paul and they had recognized some of the disciples from Ephesus who were with him. Did you ever travel to someplace far away and see someone you knew from your home town? I certainly have! And that was what happened to Paul. But these were not friends; these were people who had made as much trouble for Paul as possible in Asia, and they were not going to become friendly now that they were in Jerusalem! They saw Paul in the city with the Gentile believers from Ephesus, and then they saw Paul in the temple with the four men he was sponsoring for their vow – they assumed they were the same men. Don’t we always get into trouble when we make assumptions rather than checking things out? These men, however, did not really care if it was true or not, it was the appearance that they needed to turn the people against Paul (like politicians?). They told the people that Paul had brought Gentiles into the temple. The people were in an uproar! They seized Paul and drug him out of the temple and were trying to kill him.

The Roman garrison, the Antonia Fortress, was right beside the temple. The tribune immediately brought soldiers to quell the disturbance. They arrested Paul, but at the same time, they protected him from the crowd. Paul spoke to the tribune in Greek, which surprised the man – he had assumed Paul was a terrorist from Egypt who had recently gone into the desert with a band of assassins. Once again, assumptions could have gotten Paul killed, but speaking to the tribune reasonably saved him this time. Strangely, then, he asked to speak to the crowd. “Brothers and Sisters, listen to the defense I now make before you.” and we will go on tomorrow.

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