Hey, Let’s Have a Riot! – Acts 21:27 – 22:21

Well, that title probably just got this post read by a whole bunch of folks at the National Security Administration (NSA). To them I say, “Hi guys – I welcome you to read through the book of Acts with us! Hah! You think you guys have got problems?! This passage even mentions an Egyptian revolutionary leader and 4,000 terrorists in the wilderness. See how relevant the Bible is!”

So, today we see again where the Apostle Paul gets arrested – thankfully – since he would have otherwise been beaten to death by the Jews in Jerusalem. The Jewish crowds were certainly confused about exactly who Paul was, but in some general way at least, many of them seemed to know he had a history as a trouble-maker. We can well imagine what the rumor mill was circulating about him. He was known to be too friendly with Gentiles – having been seen around town with a particular fellow from Ephesus. The crowd wrongly assumed that Paul had brought Trophimus into the Temple, but the accusation was more than sufficient to get the masses aroused. After all, who doesn’t like a good riot?

Well, the Romans don’t!! They rush into the crowd and “rescue” Paul by arresting him and putting him into chains. With the crowd chanting and the Romans hauling him off to the barracks, Paul gets the bright idea of giving a speech to the crowd! Hey, great speakers never like to pass up a big audience!

Granted the request, Paul motions to the crowd to become silent and listen to him. (And this is what amazes me…) They do! He begins a defense before them in the common local language of the day, rehearsing his experiences of being a former persecutor of “The Way” before his incredible conversion experience. It is a great testimony.

It all goes well until the final sentence: “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”  You’ll have to wait until tomorrow to read what happens next!

The Scriptures tell us in several places that we should be ready at all times to share the story of our faith and to give an account for it and the hope that is to be found in Christ. Paul really lived this out! We probably usually think this will happen in a happy and positive place of good feelings amidst seekers who genuinely want to hear our story. But maybe it does not always have to be in that context … maybe sometimes there are also opportunities in the midst of criticism and opposition – even when it will not be popular. God can use it all.

Paul Arrested – Acts 21:27 – 22:21

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!”

Paul Speaks to the Crowd – Acts 21:27 – 22:21

37 As the soldiers were about to take Paul into the barracks, he asked the commander, “May I say something to you?”

“Do you speak Greek?” he replied. 38 “Aren’t you the Egyptian who started a revolt and led four thousand terrorists out into the wilderness some time ago?”

39 Paul answered, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no ordinary city. Please let me speak to the people.”

40 After receiving the commander’s permission, Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the crowd. When they were all silent, he said to them in Aramaic:

22 “Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense.”

When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic, they became very quiet.

Then Paul said: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as the high priest and all the Council can themselves testify. I even obtained letters from them to their associates in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.

“About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’

“‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked.

“ ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.

10 “‘What shall I do, Lord?’ I asked.

“ ‘Get up,’ the Lord said, ‘and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.’ 11 My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me.

12 “A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. 13 He stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very moment I was able to see him.

14 “Then he said: ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. 15 You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’

17 “When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw the Lord speaking to me. ‘Quick!’ he said. ‘Leave Jerusalem immediately, because the people here will not accept your testimony about me.’

19 “‘Lord,’ I replied, ‘these people know that I went from one synagogue to another to imprison and beat those who believe in you. 20 And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’

21 “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’ ”