Chapter 21: Acts 21: 1-40, mobbed at Jerusalem
Heavenly, we praised You and blessed You. You are worthy to be praised. You are righteous and pure, Your Name is above all Name. Thank You for the gift of salvation and the gift of eternal life, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
VV 1-6, 1 And it came to pass, that after we were gotten from them, and had launched, we came with a straight course unto Coos, and the day following unto Rhodes, and from thence unto Patara: 2 And finding a ship sailing over unto Phenicia, we went aboard, and set forth. 3 Now when we had discovered Cyprus, we left it on the left hand, and sailed into Syria, and landed at Tyre: for there the ship was to unlade her burden. 4 And finding disciples, we tarried there seven days: who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem. 5 And when we had accomplished those days, we departed and went our way; and they all brought us on our way, with wives and children, till we were out of the city: and we kneeled down on the shore, and prayed. 6 And when we had taken our leave one of another, we took ship; and they returned home again.
Paul sailed through Cos, Rhodes, Patara, Phoenicia, Cyprus, Syria, and Tyre. The ship docked at Tyre to unload the cargo. Paul used this opportunity to fellowship with the disciples of Tyre and stayed with them for 7 days. The disciples advised Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. At the end of 7 days, the disciples and their families gave Paul a grand sent off. At the emotional farewell, everyone kneeled, prayed, and seek the Lord.
VV 7-11, 7 And when we had finished our course from Tyre, we came to Ptolemais, and saluted the brethren, and abode with them one day. 8 And the next day we that were of Paul’s company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him. 9 And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy. 10 And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus. 11 And when he was come unto us, he took Paul’s girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.
Paul came to Ptolemais, greeted the local disciples, and stayed with them overnight. The next day, he came to Caesarea and visited the house of Philip, the evangelist. Philip was one of the 7 deacons selected to oversee the welfare of the widow’s food distribution in Acts 6. Philip had 4 unmarried daughters who moved in prophetic anointing. Agabus, a prophet from Jerusalem came to Caesarea. He took Paul’s belt, tied it around his hands and feet, and prophesied that the Jews in Jerusalem would arrest Pail and deliver him to the Gentiles.
VV 12-14, 12 And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.14 And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done.
The disciples at Caesarea tried to stop Paul from going to Jerusalem out of safety concern. But Paul was adamant in going because he knew he was in God’s will and had heard from the Holy Spirit. When it was clear that Paul would not change his mind, they gave him their blessings.
VV 15-19, 15 And after those days we took up our carriages, and went up to Jerusalem. 16 There went with us also certain of the disciples of Caesarea, and brought with them one Mnason of Cyprus, an old disciple, with whom we should lodge.
17 And when we were come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. 18 And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present. 19 And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry.
The disciples of Caesarea, and Mnason from Cyprus, accompanied Paul and his missionary team up to Jerusalem, which is 3000 feet above sea level. The elders and apostles received them cordially. The next day, Paul visited James, the half-brother of Jesus, and the elders. Paul narrated to them in detail about his missionary journeys and his evangelistic work among the Gentiles
VV 20-22, 20 And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law:21 And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs. 22 What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come.
They glorified the Lord when they heard Pauls’ story. However, there were thousands of Jewish believers in Jerusalem who were legalistic and opposed Paul. These were the Judaizers or those of the circumcision. They were unhappy with Paul’s leniency to the Gentiles over the issue of circumcision and Mosaic law-keeping. They would certainly want to meet Paul over this issue.
VV 23-26, 23 Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them; 24 Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law. 25 As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication. 26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them.
The Jerusalem elders wanted Paul to take the Nazarite vow together with 4 other Jewish believers and pay for their expenses. The Nazarite vow is recorded in Numbers 6. During the duration of the vow, they abstained from eating grape products, shaving, haircut, touching a dead body, and so on. At the end of the vow, they would offer a sacrifice to the Lord. Taking the Nazarite vow was to prove to the Jews that Paul has not forsaken the Jewish customs. Paul agreed and took the Nazarite vow together with the 4 other men. Paul entered the temple the next day to announce the expiry day of the vow, whereby, each of them would offer an offering.
VV 27-29, 27 And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him,
28 Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men everywhere against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place. 29 (For they had seen before with him in the city Trophimus an Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.)
Trouble broke out even before the Nazarite vow had expired. When Jews from Asia Minor saw Paul in the temple, they harassed, attacked, and deliberately started a mob, saying that Paul had taken a Greek into the temple. Just because, they saw Paul with Trophimus, an Ephesian Greek, in the city, they jumped to the conclusion that Paul had taken Trophimus into the temple. Paul had not taken Trophimus into the temple.
VV 30-32, 30 And all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut. 31 And as they went about to kill him, tidings came unto the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32 Who immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down unto them: and when they saw the chief captain and the soldiers, they left beating of Paul.
The Jews went on a rampage, attacked, beat, and dragged Paul out of the temple intending to kill him. The Roman commander of the garrison immediately came to Paul’s rescue bringing soldiers and centurions to stop the mob. When the Jews saw the Romans coming to the scene they dispersed and stopped attacking Paul
VV 33-36, 33 Then the chief captain came near, and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and demanded who he was, and what he had done. 34 And some cried one thing, some another, among the multitude: and when he could not know the certainty for the tumult, he commanded him to be carried into the castle. 35 And when he came upon the stairs, so it was, that he was borne of the soldiers for the violence of the people. 36 For the multitude of the people followed after, crying, Away with him.
The commander handcuffed Paul with two chains and asked for his identity. The mob was very rowdy, screaming, and shouting. Unable to proceed further, the commander took Paul to the barracks. Paul could not even walk up the stairs and had to be carried by soldiers because was so severely beaten by the mob. Meanwhile, the mob outside continued to scream and shout “away with him”.
VV 37-40, 37 And as Paul was to be led into the castle, he said unto the chief captain, May I speak unto thee? Who said, Canst thou speak Greek? 38 Art not thou that Egyptian, which before these days madest an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers? 39 But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city: and, I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people. 40 And when he had given him licence, Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the people. And when there was made a great silence, he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue, saying,
Paul politely told the commander that he wanted to speak to the mob. Surprised that Paul could speak Greek, the commanded enquired whether he was the Egyptian who had started a rebellion some time ago and had escaped with 4000 terrorists into the wilderness. Paul said he was not a terrorist, but a Jews from Tarsus in Cilicia, and a Roman citizen. The commander permitted him. Paul stood at the stairs and addressed the mob in the Hebrew language,
The Jews attacked Paul because of his faith in Christ but God protected him by sending the Romans to arrest him. Persecution, afflictions, trials, and sufferings are hallmarks of a believer. In times like these, we have to stay strong and surrender our lives to Christ. He will protect, rescue, and save us. Even in a pandemic, we need to trust the Lord and remain strong in the faith. Do not throw in the towel.
Heavenly Father, Paul was mobbed by the Jews in Jerusalem, but You rescued him by sending the Romans to arrest him. We pray for strength to remain strong in the faith during this time of the pandemic attack. Protect, rescue, and save us, in Jesus’ name, Amen.