Acts 21 The Voice (VOICE)
The last words of Paul to his Ephesian disciples are emotional, inspiring, but unbelievably arrogant. Who would place himself on a pedestal and encourage everyone to be more like him? It sounds like a cult of personality, but it is not. Paul understands that the gospel must be incarnate; it is more than a set of ideas, so someone must demonstrate how to walk the path of faith. He calls them to watch him carefully and emulate his behavior: watch how I treat people, how I eat, what I say, the way I give; and do likewise. If all believers could possess the same boldness to say, “do as I do,” then the world would be a better place. Believers would not just speak the good news; they would live the good news.
21 Cos was our next stop, and the next day, Rhodes, and the next, Patara. 2 We found another ship in Patara that would take us south and east toward Phoenicia. 3 We saw Cyprus to our left and sailed on to Syria, landing at Tyre where the ship had cargo to unload. 4 We found the disciples there and stayed with them for seven days. The Spirit moved them to tell Paul not to go on to Jerusalem; 5 but the day came for our departure, and the whole community of disciples, including wives and children, escorted us outside the city. We knelt down together on the beach, prayed together, said farewell, and then parted company— 6 the disciples returning to their homes, we sailing on. 7 From Tyre we docked at Ptolemais where we met with the believers and spent a day with them. 8 Then we moved on to Caesarea. In Caesarea we stayed with Philip the evangelist, one of the seven.[a] 9 His four virgin daughters lived with him, each having the gift of prophecy. 10 While we were with them, another gifted prophet named Agabus came north from Judea. 11 He took Paul’s belt and used it to bind his own feet and hands.
Agabus: This is a message from the Holy Spirit: unbelieving Jews in Jerusalem will in this way bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the outsiders.
Paul is a man of great mystery. This persecutor-turned-preacher seems more like a character from pages of fiction than the instigator of the spread of Christianity. He becomes what he once despised and willingly suffers on behalf of his new Savior. Paul is accused of many things, but he is no fool. He fully understands what is waiting for him in Jerusalem: persecution, suffering, and ultimately death. His friends beg him not to return to this holy city, but Paul is called to live in the footsteps of the One who was crucified—He who was destined to suffer yet called for no drugs. His suffering served a greater purpose, and Paul never loses sight of this spiritual reality because he is living in the kingdom of God.
The masses hope for a gospel that makes them happy, healthy, and wealthy. Jesus said the way of life is a hard road, with only a few on it. Ironically this hard road ends in life. The easy, broad street—which may be paved with good intentions—always leads to death and destruction.
12 Now we all joined in imploring Paul—we, his companions, and Philip and his daughters, everyone present—begging him not to go one step closer to the city.
Paul: 13 Please, you’re breaking my heart with your tears! I know exactly what I’m doing. I’m fully prepared to be bound, and more—to die for the name of Jesus, the King.
14 We realized our persuasion was fruitless, so we stopped pleading with him and simply said, “The Lord’s will be done.”
15 So we knew what we were getting into as we prepared to ascend the foothills toward Jerusalem. 16 Some of the disciples from Caesarea accompanied us and led us to the home of Mnason, a Cypriot and one of the first disciples, with whom we stayed. 17 We continued on to Jerusalem and were welcomed warmly by the brothers there. 18 The next day, we went together to visit James, and all the elders were there with him. 19 Paul greeted them and then reported account after account of what God had done through him among the outsiders. 20 When they heard his story, they praised God.
James and the Elders: Brother, we have a problem. You can see that we have thousands of Jewish believers here, and all of them are zealous law keepers. 21 They’ve heard all kinds of rumors about you—that you teach all the Jews living among the outside nations to forget about Moses entirely, that you tell believers not to circumcise their sons, that you teach them to abandon all our customs. 22 We need to deal with this situation, since word will spread that you’re here in the city. 23 So here’s what we would like you to do. We have four men here who are fulfilling a vow. 24 Join them. Go through the rituals of purification with them. Pay for their heads to be shaved according to our ritual. That will show that the rumors are false and that you are still observing and upholding the law. 25 For the outside believers, we’ve already written in a letter our judgment on their situation: they should not eat food that has been sacrificed to idols, they should not eat meat with blood in it or meat from animals killed by strangulation, and they should abstain from all sexual misconduct.
26 Paul complied with their request. The very next day, he publicly joined the four men, completed the initial purification rites, entered the temple with them, and began the seven-day ritual purification process, after which a sacrifice would be made for each of them.
27 The seven days of purification were almost completed when some Jews from Asia recognized Paul in the temple. They grabbed him.
Asian Jews (shouting): 28 Help! Fellow Israelites! This man is an enemy of our people, our religion, our law, and this temple! He travels around the world subverting our holiest customs! He is at this moment desecrating this holy temple by bringing outsiders into this sacred place.
29 In this accusation, they were confused—they had seen Paul elsewhere in the city with Trophimus the Ephesian, and they assumed that one of his current companions was Trophimus. 30 It was too late to clarify, though, because word spread and soon a huge crowd rushed to the temple. They held Paul and dragged him from the temple and shut the doors behind them. 31 They beat Paul, and it was clear they intended to kill him. By this time, word of the uproar reached the commandant of the Roman guard assigned to Jerusalem.
32 He led a group of soldiers and officers to the scene. When the mob looked up and saw the soldiers running toward them, they stopped beating Paul. 33 The commandant took him into custody and ordered him to be bound with two chains. He conducted a preliminary interrogation—asking Paul’s name, what he had done. 34 Members of the crowd were shouting over each other, and the tribune couldn’t hear a thing, so he ordered Paul to be taken back to the barracks. 35 When they came to the steps leading down from the temple, the crowd was seething with such violence toward Paul that the soldiers had to pick him up and carry him. 36 Then the crowd followed.
Crowd: Away with him! Away with him!
37 They were just leaving the temple area when Paul asked the commandant,
Paul: May I say something to you?
Commandant: Do you speak Greek? 38 We thought you were that Egyptian who recently stirred a rebellion and led 4,000 assassins out into the desert. But if you speak Greek, then obviously you’re not the person we supposed.
Paul: 39 No, I’m a Jew, originally from Tarsus in Cilicia. I’m a citizen from an important city. Please, I beg you, let me speak to the people.
40 The commandant agreed, and Paul stood there on the steps, motioning for the people to be silent. The crowd settled down, and Paul spoke in their native tongue, Aramaic.