323 - Paul’s Presence Causes a Riot in Jerusalem
NOVEMBER 19 - Nº 323 Acts 21:27 – 22:24
Paul was constantly being watched while he was in Jerusalem. The Jews (even many of the Jewish believers) did not trust him. They felt that he was a traitor to his Jewish heritage, so they looked for reasons to condemn him. One day, near the end of his purification ritual (see #322 - November 18), some Jewish men saw Paul walking through the streets of Jerusalem. He was talking to a man from Ephesus named Trophimus. Later, those same men saw Paul in the Temple courtyard. They presumed that Trophimus was still with him, so they falsely accused Paul of bringing a Gentile into the Temple courtyard. This was strictly prohibited by Jewish law. As a matter of fact, it was a crime punishable by death. So, they grabbed Paul and started shouting for others to come help them kill him. “This is the man who teaches against our people and blasphemes our Law and our Temple! Now he has brought Gentiles into the Temple to defile our holy place.” The crowd quickly became an angry mob. They dragged Paul out of the Temple area and started beating him. Word of the uproar reached the commander of the Roman troops. He quickly gathered some men and rushed into the crowd. When the rioters saw the commander and his men, they stopped beating Paul. The commander arrested Paul and put him in chains. He ordered his soldiers to take Paul to the Antonio Fortress located right next to the Temple. But by the time they reached the steps, the mob had grown violent again. They kept yelling, “Get rid of him! Get rid of him!” The soldiers had to pick Paul up and carry him to keep him safe. As they were about to enter the barracks, Paul asked the commander to let him speak to the crowd. This surprised the Roman leader, but he finally gave Paul permission. So, Paul stood on the steps and raised his hand. Everyone grew quiet as Paul began telling them his story in their own Hebrew language: “I am a Jew born in Tarsus of Cilicia,” he said, “but I was brought up here in Jerusalem. I was a student of Gamaliel, the leading authority on Jewish Law. I was just as dedicated to God as any of you are. I proved my dedication by persecuting anyone who believed that Jesus was the Messiah. I put them in prison and even killed them. Then one day, as I traveled to Damascus to get more prisoners, a bright light blinded me and I heard a voice say, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ The voice introduced himself as Jesus of Nazareth. Then he told me to go to Damascus where I would be told what to do. Once I was in the city, a believer named Ananias came to see me. He restored my sight and explained how God had chosen me to share the news about Jesus. Then he baptized me. Later I returned to Jerusalem and was praying right here in the Temple when the Lord spoke to me again. He said, ‘I am sending you far away to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles.’” As soon as Paul said the word “Gentiles,” the crowd went wild. They yelled, “Kill him! He is not fit to live!” The commander hustled Paul back into the barracks. He ordered the soldiers to flog Paul until he could explain what he had done to upset the people.
Paul grabbed every opportunity he could to share the Gospel message—even with the people who had just tried to kill him. It didn’t go so well that day in Jerusalem, but no doubt Paul would have done it again if given the chance. Are you willing to share about Jesus’ love even with your worst enemies?