Paul and Silas in Thessalonica
Paul and Silas then traveled through the towns of Amphipolis and Apollonia and came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. As was Paul’s custom, he went to the synagogue service, and for three Sabbaths in a row he used the Scriptures to reason with the people. He explained the prophecies and proved that the Messiah must suffer and rise from the dead. He said, “This Jesus I’m telling you about is the Messiah.”
Some of the Jews who listened were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with many God-fearing Greek men and quite a few prominent women. But some of the Jews were jealous, so they gathered some troublemakers from the marketplace to form a mob and start a riot. They attacked the home of Jason, searching for Paul and Silas so they could drag them out to the crowd. Not finding them there, they dragged out Jason and some of the other believers instead and took them before the city council. “Paul and Silas have caused trouble all over the world,” they shouted, “and now they are here disturbing our city, too. And Jason has welcomed them into his home. They are all guilty of treason against Caesar, for they profess allegiance to another king, named Jesus.”
The people of the city, as well as the city council, were thrown into turmoil by these reports. So the officials forced Jason and the other believers to post bond, and then they released them.Acts 17:1-9
Does this sound like another case of déjà vu? This all sounds so familiar. Haven’t we been in this situation before? Each time Paul and whoever his companion maybe, or Peter and whoever his companion maybe encounter a crowd of adherents to Judaisim, events take a turn down the same track. They told these Jews in Thessalonica from their own Scriptures (read Tanakh) that Jesus was their long-awaited Messiah. They proved it through the prophecies. They linked the prophecies found throughout the Law, the Prophets and the Writings to the events of the crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Paul told them clearly that “This Jesus I’m telling you about is the Messiah.” Don’t you think it is interesting to say the least that a message like that is enough to convince some people to join those who believe Christ is the Messiah while at the same time it provokes others to want to kill the messengers? Doesn’t that make you stop and think? Isn’t it clear that this is a matter of light and dark, the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of satan? It is a spiritual issue. Luke told us Jesus’ coming (the first time) would set sons against fathers, family members against family members. Like Simeon said in the temple
This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.Luke 2:34-35
In other words Jesus will cause the fall to ultimate destruction of some and the rise to resurrection of new life for others. This Jesus is divisive; but only because He is the Way, the Truth and the Life and some can accept that, others can’t. It’s a spiritual matter.
If the Good News we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing. Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God. You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake.2 Cor 4:3-5
Preaching Jesus as the Messiah (the Christ) will always elicit a response. But don’t be surprised if that response vehemently opposes the facts and the truth you are telling people. Paul wrote,
Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?2 Cor 2:15-16
How does Paul see this all so clearly? Well one reason is because he encountered it over and over when dealing with his own people, the Jews. He gained a look behind the curtain as it relates to human responses to this message of truth.
Nothing in my experience points to this as graphically as two encounters I had on planes. Both encounters started the same way with a plain ordinary introduction.
“Hello my name is Ian.”
“Hi Ian, my name is ______. Ian what do you do for a living?”
“I work with Wycliffe Bible Translators.”
From that point on, either the doors are open wide or slammed shut. There seems no middle ground. Just that one innocent statement of what I do evokes interesting reactions. The first experience happened on a flight from Brisbane to Auckland. This was the one and only time I had been upgraded from Economy to First Class. I was soon joined by my travelling companion and we introduced ourselves as above. When I told him what I did he remarked, “Well that is fascinating. Tell me about it.” That started a three and half hour conversation about spiritual things and resulted in the person coming back to God after spending years away from Him. My companion asked all sorts of questions, genuinely wanting to know. He asked how I was funded to do what I did. I told him. Then he said, “Ian, may I ask you a personal question?” I said, “Yes, you can ask me anything.” “How is it that you are seated in First Class if you gain your money from the gifts that ordinary people give to you?” I smiled and said, “That’s a very astute question. Actually this is the one and only time I have been bumped up to 1st Class. I believe I have been put here for you.” He said, “I think you are right!” and we proceeded to talk non-stop until the flight attendant told us that we would be landing soon which surprised us both. She said, “Gentlemen you have been talking non-stop from the time you boarded. We are beginning our descent to Auckland now.”
The second encounter occurred on a flight from L.A to Auckland. The introduction was exactly the same as the conversation above. That is, we introduced ourselves and she asked what I did [for a living]. I told her I worked for Wycliffe Bible Translators. Instantly her reaction was to pointedly turn her back to me and face the window for the next 40 minutes. When dinner came and she turned back toward the front of the plane her table and lowered her table. I innocently dared to speak to her again and asked, “Did you choose the beef or the chicken?” I assure you dear reader, my question contained no hidden meanings in the words “beef” or “chicken”. It was just a simple question. No sooner had I asked it but the woman turned back toward her favourite window, ate her meal at a strange angle shutting me out, and after the meal sat with her body angled to the window for the duration of the flight. It made my heart go out to her in sympathy but I knew I wasn’t the one to help her. I had become unwittingly part of her problem. I felt sorry for her. Clearly she had been deeply hurt by religion or religious people. I longed to be able to talk to her and help her but she didn’t give me chance and I knew not to try to talk to her anymore. But it did talk to the LORD on her behalf.
As Paul wrote centuries ago, to some we are the fragrance of life while to others we are the stench of death, through nothing we have done or said.
This kind of reaction is especially true among Jewish people, because they have been taught one thing about the Messiah and if one dares to tell them that Jesus Christ is the long awaited Jewish Messiah, all reason and rationality does out the window, (not the same window the woman on the plane was looking through), and the person shuts down to Truth. It is uncanny, but I have seen it again and again with all kinds of people. How much more must Paul have seen it in the reaction of his countrymen and women? Luke tells us, “Some of the Jews who listened were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with many God-fearing Greek men and quite a few prominent women. But some of the Jews were jealous, so they gathered some troublemakers from the marketplace to form a mob and start a riot. They attacked the home of Jason, searching for Paul and Silas so they could drag them out to the crowd.” Then notice what Luke tells us, “Not finding them there, they dragged out Jason and some of the other believers instead and took them before the city council. “Paul and Silas have caused trouble all over the world,” they shouted, “and now they are here disturbing our city, too. And Jason has welcomed them into his home. They are all guilty of treason against Caesar, for they profess allegiance to another king, named Jesus.” What an incredibly irrational reaction that was! Paul and Silas dared to say things which the Jews in the crowd took exception to. So they go to the place where Paul and Silas were staying. Not finding them there they drag out Jason as a scapegoat.
Then these men say, “Paul and Silas have caused trouble all over the world,” they shouted, “and now they are here disturbing our city, too. And Jason has welcomed them into his home. They are all guilty of treason against Caesar, for they profess allegiance to another king, named Jesus.” What a bizarre scene!
First you have to ask yourself the question if Paul and Silas were teaching these reprehensible things, why were they not taken in the act of teaching them and dragged before the officials on the city council? It seems strange that they go to find Paul and Silas at the place where they were staying when they had them right in front of them as they were teaching “these heresies”.
- Why do they then implicate Jason in the wrong doing?
- Is he implicated only because he gave them a bed for the night?
- That hardly seems fair. Jason is a derivate or alternative of the Jewish name Joshua or Jehosua or Jesus.
- Was Jason implicated simply because his name makes him guilty by association? Be careful you never can tell with mob violence.
- Who was associated with this mob anyway? Who was part of the “they”?
- Why did they drag out some other believers along with Jason? What does that tell you?
- How did the mob know they believed what Paul and Silas were preaching?
- Is there a certain look that comes in the eye which reveals what it is a person believes?
- In what way were the guilty of treason against Caesar simply by believing Jesus Christ was the Jewish Messiah?
- Or in this case by being in the house where Paul and Silas were staying?
- Did the mob demand to know what they believed?
- Why were the city councilors thrown into turmoil by what the mob reported to them?
- What is meant by “post bond”?
- What happen after that? Luke hasn’t told us the rest of the story. Did anything more come of it?
Ponder on these things!
Don’t let someone else’s bad day ruin your good day.Ian Vail
Peter and Paul and the other disciples changed the world by starting small churches in godless towns. How is that possible?Ian Vail
What do you believe in strongly enough to actually step out and do something on the basis of what you believe?Ian Vail
Spiritual mediocrity is sometimes more devastating than occasional lapses into sin.Jerry Rankin
“Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me”. Is that true?Ian Vail
The mind cannot at the same time be full of God and full of fear?Max Lucado