Do you ever have that feeling where it seems like the whole world is against you? Yes, there are some friends and family you can count on, but beyond that you run into opposition and difficulties at every turn.
Certainly the Apostle Paul must have had such a feeling. As we have followed his life it has been interesting to see how many people have come to know him and love him. Wherever he travels there are folks who want to spend some time with him and hear about the spread of the gospel.
Yet at the same time there were even more enemies. On occasion they were even people who claimed to be Christians but taught errant doctrine. Other times the Gentiles were in opposition. But the worst of the resistance came from the Jewish element. And you could certainly forgive Paul for having a déjà vu feeling of “here we go again” … as the riot we read about in today’s passage is actually the 6th time this occurs in the book of Acts. On this occasion it was not the Jews in Jerusalem who get the riot started, rather it involved Jews from Asia who had seen Paul start churches there that drew people away from the historic faith and traditions. Their accusation is a lie, not that they really cared …
Acts 21:26 – The next day Paul took the men and purified himself along with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them.
27 When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, 28 shouting, “Fellow Israelites, help us! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place.” 29 (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple.)
30 The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut. 31 While they were trying to kill him, news reached the commander of the Roman troops that the whole city of Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32 He at once took some officers and soldiers and ran down to the crowd. When the rioters saw the commander and his soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.
33 The commander came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains. Then he asked who he was and what he had done. 34 Some in the crowd shouted one thing and some another, and since the commander could not get at the truth because of the uproar, he ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. 35 When Paul reached the steps, the violence of the mob was so great he had to be carried by the soldiers. 36 The crowd that followed kept shouting, “Get rid of him!”
Speaking of déjà vu, what does the final phrase here remind you of? You can’t read that without it conjuring up a memory of the Jewish crowds who screamed about Jesus in Matthew 27 …
22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.
They all answered, “Crucify him!”
23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
As we recall these stories and these events, it should not surprise us when we proclaim the gospel that people will sometimes not just reject it, they will reject you and despise you for your belief. If Jesus and Paul faced such fierce opposition, why would we expect to be in any better position? Yet it should not stop us from doing what is right, just as Paul continued on in running the race of preaching Christ. And we should do the same, understanding that opposition is quite normal and will be a repeated situation.
A genuine love and compassion for lost people can take us a long way toward enduring opposition. We are driven by truth to bring people to a genuine understanding of the greatest truth. Our view of people is changed, and we want to see them escape their lost condition. We no longer see people as mere humans going through a few decades on earth; we see them as eternal souls who need the only Savior who can rescue them from their lost condition. Paul summarized this with a few words from 2 Corinthians 4:14-16 …
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.