17From Miletus he sent a message to Ephesus, asking the elders of the church to meet him. 18When they came to him, he said to them: “You yourselves know how I lived among you the entire time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19serving the Lord with all humility and with tears, enduring the trials that came to me through the plots of the Jews. 20I did not shrink from doing anything helpful, proclaiming the message to you and teaching you publicly and from house to house, 21as I testified to both Jews and Greeks about repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus. 22And now, as a captive to the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and persecutions are waiting for me. 24But I do not count my life of any value to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God’s grace. 25“And now I know that none of you, among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom, will ever see my face again. 26Therefore I declare to you this day that I am not responsible for the blood of any of you, 27for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God. 28Keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son. 29I know that after I have gone, savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30Some even from your own group will come distorting the truth in order to entice the disciples to follow them. 31Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to warn everyone with tears. 32And now I commend you to God and to the message of his grace, a message that is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all who are sanctified. 33I coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothing. 34You know for yourselves that I worked with my own hands to support myself and my companions. 35In all this I have given you an example that by such work we must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, for he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
36When he had finished speaking, he knelt down with them all and prayed. 37There was much weeping among them all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, 38grieving especially because of what he had said, that they would not see him again. Then they brought him to the ship.
As Paul is returning to Jerusalem following his third missionary journey, he has been warned repeatedly that he will face persecution in Jerusalem. He knows that he may not see his good friends again. He does not stop in Ephesus to meet with the whole church there – perhaps that would simply be too painful for him. Instead, he goes to Miletus, and sends word to the elders from Ephesus to meet him there. He tells them that he will not see them again; he commends them to God and the message of grace – a message that will build them up. He has given them an example to live by, to support the weak, to give to others. And he knelt with them all and prayed, and there was much weeping among them. They embraced Paul and kissed him, grieving because he had said he would not see them again.
We traveled to Miletus before going on to Ephesus. We joined together in the ancient theater, sitting on the stones. Bishop Carter preached on this passage, and just as the Ephesian leaders had done, I wept. We participated then in a service of Holy Communion, and we remembered, in community, the love of God, the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.
These are pictures from Miletus, and from the service there.