Sep. 20. Paul’s Stormy Return to Jerusalem

Acts 21:18-40

The day following Paul’s arrival in Jerusalem, he met with James and the elders of the church there. He reported on the things that he had accomplished with the Gentiles during his journey. Those present rejoiced at his news, but they reported to him that there was a problem among the Jews because of him.

Jewish Christians in Jerusalem had been informed that Paul had taught, “All the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs.”

Paul continued to face accusations from the Jews. He did not command them to refrain from circumcision and the other Jewish customs, but taught that those things were unnecessary for salvation and should not be forced upon the Gentiles.

In order to become all things to all men as he had stated in his first letter to Corinth, Paul participated in a vow with four other men. He had hoped that this act would show his respect for the Law of Moses and pacify the Jews without violating a Christian principle.

Jews from Asia who had probably heard Paul preach had come to Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost. When they saw him in the temple completing the vow, they stirred up a mob.

These Jews charged Paul with teaching, “All men everywhere against the people, the law and this place.” Since they had seen Trophimus, a Greek with him in the city, they supposed that he had defiled the temple with a Gentile. They added that charge to Paul also.

Mobs are not noted for being polite or organized. The people ran together, seized Paul, dragged him from the temple to kill him and immediately shut the doors; probably to prevent it from being defiled by his blood.

However, before the Jews could carry out their plan, the Roman garrison commander was notified that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. He took soldiers, arrested Paul, tied him up with two chains and asked who he was and what he had done. Because the commander could not understand what the mob was yelling, he commanded that Paul be taken to the barracks near the temple. This fulfilled the prophecy of Agabus.

As the soldiers reached the stairway leading into the barracks, Paul asked the commander for permission to speak to the mob. After he had explained his identity to the commander, he was allowed to address the Jewish multitude. When the people realized that Paul wanted to speak and had addressed them in Hebrew, their native language, there was a great silence.