17All the brothers and sisters in Jerusalem welcomed us cordially.
18The next day Paul went in with us to meet with James, and all the elders of the Jerusalem church were present. 19After greetings were exchanged, Paul gave a detailed account of the things God had accomplished among the Gentiles through his ministry.
20After hearing this, they praised God. But then they said, “You know, dear brother, how many thousands of Jews have also believed, and they all take the law of Moses very seriously. 21Our Jewish Christians here at Jerusalem have been told that you are teaching all the Jews living in the Gentile world to turn their backs on the laws of Moses. They say that you teach people not to circumcise their children or follow other Jewish customs. 22Now what can be done? For they will certainly hear that you have come.
23“Here’s our suggestion. We have four men here who have taken a vow and are preparing to shave their heads. 24Go with them to the Temple and join them in the purification ceremony, and pay for them to have their heads shaved. Then everyone will know that the rumors are all false and that you yourself observe the Jewish laws.
25“As for the Gentile Christians, all we ask of them is what we already told them in a letter: They should not eat food offered to idols, nor consume blood, nor eat meat from strangled animals, and they should stay away from all sexual immorality.”
26So Paul agreed to their request, and the next day he went through the purification ritual with the men and went to the Temple. Then he publicly announced the date when their vows would end and sacrifices would be offered for each of them.
27The seven days were almost ended when some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul in the Temple and roused a mob against him. They grabbed him, 28yelling, “Men of Israel! Help! This is the man who teaches against our people and tells everybody to disobey the Jewish laws. He speaks against the Temple–and he even defiles it by bringing Gentiles in!” 29(For earlier that day they had seen him in the city with Trophimus, a Gentile from Ephesus, and they assumed Paul had taken him into the Temple.)
30The whole population of the city was rocked by these accusations, and a great riot followed. Paul was dragged out of the Temple, and immediately the gates were closed behind him. 31As they were trying to kill him, word reached the commander of the Roman regiment that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32He immediately called out his soldiers and officers and ran down among the crowd. When the mob saw the commander and the troops coming, they stopped beating Paul. 33The commander arrested him and ordered him bound with two chains. Then he asked the crowd who he was and what he had done. 34Some shouted one thing and some another. He couldn’t find out the truth in all the uproar and confusion, so he ordered Paul to be taken to the fortress. 35As they reached the stairs, the mob grew so violent the soldiers had to lift Paul to their shoulders to protect him. 36And the crowd followed behind shouting, “Kill him, kill him!”
37As Paul was about to be taken inside, he said to the commander, “May I have a word with you?”
“Do you know Greek?” the commander asked, surprised. 38“Aren’t you the Egyptian who led a rebellion some time ago and took four thousand members of the Assassins out into the desert?”
39“No,” Paul replied, “I am a Jew from Tarsus in Cilicia, which is an important city. Please, let me talk to these people.”
Points of Interest:
- ‘have been told that you are teaching all the Jews living in the Gentile world to turn their backs on the laws of Moses’—actually, Paul has not been teaching the Jews to live like Gentiles. He’s been teaching non-Jews that they don’t need to live like Jews. But wild rumors have spread about him, even among the church.
- ‘So Paul agreed to their request’—as long as it does not compromise his mission to the wider world, Paul is perfectly willing to do what it takes to seek peace with the Jewish believers in Jerusalem. Even though Paul has a particular calling toward people who are not Jewish, he is still himself a Jew and practices the Jewish law. In fact, he just recently took the same vow himself. So, he has no problem doing what James asked of him.
- ‘ran down among the crowd’—the Romans had a fortress on high ground near the Temple, from which they commanded the city and kept the peace.
- ‘He couldn’t find out the truth in all the uproar and confusion’—again, it seems that wild rumors about Paul are spreading around. There seems to be a climate of hysteria surrounding Paul during this Jerusalem trip: the Jewish believers think that he is preaching that Jews abandon the laws of Moses; some Asian Jews think he has brought a non-Jew into the Jews-only precinct of the temple; the Romans think he is an Egyptian guerilla fighter; and many people don’t know what’s going on, but they’re still angry at Paul.
Taking it home:
- Through you: Rather than defend himself against unjust accusations and irrational fears, Paul puts aside his rights and does what he can to seek peace. Are you in a situation right now where there is a lack of peace? What can you do to bring about reconciliation? Consider the possibility that it might take laying down your right to completely defend yourself.
- Through your six: Some of the Jewish believers respond to Paul with irrational fear that comes out of entrenched prejudices. All of us make these sorts of blind assumptions about people who see things differently from us, and when we act out of them it can keep us apart from others and from Jesus. Ask God to protect your six from these negative effects of their fears and biases.
- Through our church: James and the other leaders of the Jerusalem church welcomed Paul and his team even though it was likely to cause trouble for them. Ask us to increase our ability to welcome other believers who do things differently from us, even if it causes us some trouble to do so.