It’s Acts 21:27-40 today and the notes this week have been supplied by Beth.
“I told you so” are some of the most frustrating words that can be uttered. Sometimes a friend or family member will warn you about a situation or person and then will be proved right in the long run. Essentially, many of Paul’s friends could say this to Paul when he is arrested in this passage –they had warned him after all – but Paul wouldn’t care. He knew he would suffer in Jerusalem; it was prophesied but he risked it anyway,
“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” (20:24)
Paul is disliked by the Jews and Jewish Christians for preaching to the Gentiles and preaching the freedom found in Christ. Large crowds gather to attack him. Sometimes we seem to be punished for doing the right thing and it’s a really difficult thing to deal with but we should take Paul’s example and not give up or back-track. However much we suffer for Christ, it is nothing compared to what he suffered for us, eventhough we don’t deserve an ounce of it. Keep perspective in times of trial and ‘fix your eyes on Jesus’.
The suffering Paul endures here must have been worse than he’d imagined. He’d already stated that he was willing to die or be imprisoned for Christ but I’m sure he couldn’t have imagined that he would be seized in the temple and attacked by a mob. He must have had regrets; he must have considered a different path. There are echoes of Jesus’ arrest here, with the shouts of the crowds and this must have acted as a reminder to Paul as to why he was doing this.
“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” (1 Pet 2:21)
Jesus never promised that following him would be easy or that we wouldn’t suffer for his name, in fact, he does the opposite but we serve the Son of Man who led by example and suffered for us. He understands physical pain, rejection and humiliation. We worship and serve a God who gets it, who knows.
This is the start of the suffering for Paul; from this point forward, he’s rarely out of prison. He suffers in this way because he is being led by the Holy Spirit and preaching to whomever he has the opportunity to. Surely it’s better to follow the Lord and suffer persecution than to ignore his commands and sit in luxury; too often we find ourselves doing the latter,
‘choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin’. (Hebrews 11:25)
Paul is criticised for defiling the temple but it is his persecutors who are doing this. They seize Paul in the temple and throw him out of the gates. Sadly, it is all too common for Christians to be hurt in church. We – rightly – let our guard down when we’re amongst other believers but there will be many people reading this who have suffered for this. Remember, our purpose is the same, hurt or not, to follow the Lord and preach his word. Paul doesn’t let this cause him to stumble; he stands firm.
What’s significant here is that the people causing problems for Paul are not from Jerusalem but Asia; they have separated themselves from Jerusalem and live a comfortable life away from the temple but yet still think they can dictate what takes place there. This made me chuckle to myself because we see this so commonly today. People who haven’t attended church since their childhood, attend weddings or funerals and expect everything to be the same: the same songs, the same clothes, the same chairs; when it’s not, it’s like they believe the gospel has weakened. When we’re following the Lord’s word, things may change but the Lord doesn’t. His promises don’t. His forgiveness doesn’t. His love doesn’t. Hallelujah!
To be thrown into flames and still to say,
‘My God He saves;My God He saves.
’To see suffering and pain and still to say,
‘My God He reigns’. Father, let Your kingdom come,
Your will be done on earth.
Saviour, can You hear us call?
We trust You are enough. (Kingdom Come – Beth Croft)