27 As the seven days were about to end, the Jews from Asia saw him in the temple complex, stirred up the whole crowd, and seized him, 28 shouting, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people, our law, and this place. What’s more, he also brought Greeks into the temple and has profaned this holy place.” 29 For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with him, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple complex.
30 The whole city was stirred up, and the people rushed together. They seized Paul, dragged him out of the temple complex, and at once the gates were shut. 31 As they were trying to kill him, word went up to the commander of the regiment that all Jerusalem was in chaos. 32 Taking along soldiers and centurions, he immediately ran down to them. Seeing the commander and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. 33 Then the commander came up, took him into custody, and ordered him to be bound with two chains. He asked who he was and what he had done. 34 Some in the mob were shouting one thing and some another. Since he was not able to get reliable information because of the uproar, he ordered him to be taken into the barracks. 35 When Paul got to the steps, he had to be carried by the soldiers because of the mob’s violence, 36 for the mass of people followed, yelling, “Take him away!”
37 As he was about to be brought into the barracks, Paul said to the commander, “Am I allowed to say something to you?”
He replied, “Do you know Greek? 38 Aren’t you the Egyptian who raised a rebellion some time ago and led 4,000 Assassins into the wilderness?”
39 Paul said, “I am a Jewish man from Tarsus of Cilicia, a citizen of an important city. Now I ask you, let me speak to the people.”
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
Paul said, “I am a Jewish man from Tarsus of Cilicia, a citizen of an important city. Now I ask you, let me speak to the people.”
In chapters 19 and 20, we read how Paul ministered in Ephesus, survived a huge riot, went to Macedonia and Greece, and survived a plot there as well. He returned to Ephesus by foot, ministered there, and then told them how he must go to Jerusalem feeling “constrained by the Sprit, not knowing what will happen to me there” (20:22 ESV).
What does that mean?
Paul explains how the Holy Spirit was urging him on: “In town after town the Holy Spirit testifies to me that chains and afflictions are waiting for me. But I count my life of no value to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God’s grace” (20:23:24, emphasis added).
In chapter 21, Luke switches over from “they” to “we,” which likely means that from this point on, Luke was an eyewitness instead of having to interview other eyewitnesses (Luke 1:1,2). Even in verse 12, he recalls how he and the other Ephesians urged Paul not to go to Jerusalem for fear of his life.
Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (21:13).
When he couldn’t be persuaded, Luke says “we” ceased and said, “Let the will of the Lord be done” (21:14). Now then, the rubber is about to meet the road.
In the HBO series Band of Brothers, there’s a scene between a paratrooper Blythe and a wild-eyed Lieutenant. The trooper confesses that after parachuting into France, he hid in a ditch during the worst of the fighting because he was scared.
The Lieutenant, who by this time was known for running orders by hand through enemy fire to link up with nearby commands and then running back to his platoon under fire, said this: “We’re all scared. You hid in that ditch because you think there’s still hope, but, Blythe, the only hope you have is to accept the fact that you’re already dead, and the sooner you accept that, the sooner you’ll be able to function as a soldier’s supposed to function—no mercy, no compassion, no remorse. All war depends upon it.”
Well, we might certainly disagree as Christians with his statement, especially in terms of spiritual warfare, in regards to mercy and compassion, but there’s something essential in what he said: “accept the fact that you’re already dead.”
This is harsh, but look at it in terms of Paul’s life. Did he have opportunities to spare his own life at the expense of sharing the gospel in unfriendly places? Many. Could he have said that enough was enough after being jailed, beaten, and after attempted murder and capture? Yes. Did he hold his tongue for fear of what this world would do to him? No.
Paul made it to Jerusalem. Even James had him go through ceremonial Jewish activities before appearing there in public to try and preserve his life. It didn’t work. They leaped upon him and would likely have beaten him to death if the Roman tribune had not interfered.
After being taken from the frenzied mob on the shoulders of Roman soldiers, Paul spoke to the tribune and said this: “I beg you, permit me to speak to the people” (Acts 21:39, ESV).
Ok. He is begging to speak to people that want to kill him. Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
How does this apply in living out our days here on earth as followers of Christ? What if it’s uncomfortable? What if it takes up our time and requires conversations? What if it causes tension in relationships and with work and needs to be defended? What if it costs us something?
- Check out a commentary on Galatians 2:20. What does that verse mean?
- Where does bold faith come from?
- Who can you share the gospel with that you’ve been afraid of sharing it with?