Acts 17:1 – 9
After Paul and Silas had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three sabbath days argued with them from the scriptures, 3explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This is the Messiah, Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you.” 4Some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. 5But the Jews became jealous, and with the help of some ruffians in the marketplaces they formed a mob and set the city in an uproar. While they were searching for Paul and Silas to bring them out to the assembly, they attacked Jason’s house. 6When they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some believers before the city authorities, shouting, “These people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also, 7and Jason has entertained them as guests. They are all acting contrary to the decrees of the emperor, saying that there is another king named Jesus.” 8The people and the city officials were disturbed when they heard this, 9and after they had taken bail from Jason and the others, they let them go.
If you refer back to the 2nd journey map, you will see that Paul and Silas and their little group traveled some distance between Philippi and their next ministry stop, Thessalonica. There is a city there still today, in Greece. Paul and Silas would have traveled the Roman road, the “Via Egnatia”, to this city, which was the capital of the province at the time. There was a synagogue in this city, and Paul went first to the synagogue, as was his custom. He went for three weeks, arguing with them from scripture that Jesus was the Messiah and that his suffering and crucifixion, the major difficulty the Jews had with believing in Jesus, were all a part of God’s plan all along. A few of them were persuaded and joined the disciples, as did a great man of the devout Greeks, the God-Fearers, some of whom were women who were the leading women in the city. A man named Jason invited them to stay in his home.
Once again, the leaders of the synagogue became jealous. Notice, they are not so concerned with what Paul and Silas believe and are teaching as with the fact that they are more popular than the previous leaders. That is what really makes them mad! They don’t really have enough genuine followers to raise a real ruckus, so they go to the marketplace and hire some “ruffians” to help. With them they start a riot, and search for Paul and Silas – not finding them, they drag Jason and some other believers to the authorities, claiming that Jason has entertained “those people” who were “turning the world upside down” causing trouble wherever they went! They go further, saying that Paul and Silas claim this Jesus is King, rather than Caesar!
It is true – they do see Jesus as the one whom they must obey, trust, and proclaim! And they are turning the world upside down! Not through any direct opposition to political powers, but by proclaiming his kingdom to the hearts of people everywhere they go. We, as well, must proclaim Jesus as our King, our Lord, over and above Caesar, represented by whatever political, social, or ideological system may also claim our loyalty. We strive to be a part of God’s Kingdom, more than Caesar’s.
The authorities make Jason pay bail and let him and the others they have found with him go; they return, find the apostles, and the next day, send them on to Berea. But Paul will visit Thessalonica again on his third journey, and develops a deep relationship with these Christians who helped him, and were willing to be jailed for him. We have two of the letters Paul sent to the Thessalonian Christians.