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
Why were Paul and Silas not taken in the act of teaching them but rather later the mob go to find Paul and Silas at the place where they were staying?
Clearly the mob couldn’t take Paul and Silas in the midst of teaching because there were those among the ones listening who were interested and in agreement with what they were saying. Mobs or those with a hidden agenda don’t work transparently before the masses. They work behind the scenes in hidden ways to accomplish their purposes. Hence they must have found out where Paul and Silas were staying and tried to apprehend them there.
- Why do they then implicate Jason in the wrong doing?
- Is he implicated only because he gave them a bed for the night?
- Why did they drag out some other believers along with Jason? What does that tell you?
As happens these days with angry religious mobs, they don’t stop to find out the facts, they act impulsively. Yes, everyone at Jason’s house would have been guilty in the eyes of the mob simply for being there. Whoever happened to be there would have been considered to be a follower of Paul and Silas’ teaching. Therefore, guilty just as much as the preachers were. The mere fact they were at Jason’s house would tell the mob and more importantly those Jews who incited the mob, that these people were followers of Yeshua as well.
- And who was associated with this mob anyway?
- Who was part of the “they”?
They were no doubt found at Mobs-Are-Us. The Jews who were hoping to stir up trouble for Paul and Silas would have offered money to those who would join a mob. It was what happened with Jesus, it’s what happened with Peter and Paul in Jerusalem. It is obviously what happened in Thessalonica. There are others who join mobs because it is an excuse to express the anger that is hidden in their hearts. People like that don’t need valid reasons. They don’t tend to be people who rationally think through what they are doing and why. Whether or not there is any reason for them to apprehend or punish those they have caught is irrelevant. You just follow the crowd; that’s what mob mentality is based on. As in Jerusalem, so in Thessalonica, so too in our world today. I am sure I don’t have to spell it out.
- How did the mob know they believed what Paul and Silas were preaching?
- Did the mob demand to know what they believed?
No one would have interviewed those they found in Jason’s house and asked them what they believed or whether they agree with Paul’s teaching that Jesus was the long awaited Jewish Messiah. I am sure they just swept up all in the house and dragged them before the city Councillors. No questions asked, no excuses accepted. You were there then you were guilty by association.
In what way were they guilty of treason against Caesar simply by believing Jesus Christ was the Jewish Messiah?
Because in the Roman Empire you were to have no other gods before Caesar. Whether you were a Roman citizen or not you still had to bow before Caesar and acknowledge him as Lord. Those who followed Jesus would not do that. The simple way to test it was to ask a Christian to bow before an image of Caesar and say that he was Lord and you gave your allegiance to him. No true Christ-follower would do that. To not do that meant you worshipped a god other than Caesar. Simply put, Caesar was not the ultimate authority in your life.
- How would you have got on if you had lived in that time in the Roman Empire?
- Would they have had enough evidence to convict you of treason?
- Why were the city councillors thrown into turmoil by what the mob reported to them?
- What is meant by “post bond”?
The city councillors were caught between the demands of the angry mob and their duty to uphold the law. I wonder if the authorities in Thessalonica had been aware of what had happened in Philippi and how the authorities there had ended up “with egg on their face” when they found out Paul and Silas were Roman citizens. No doubt the city officials in Thessalonica didn’t want the same thing to happen here. So they did the least they could do. They didn’t charge Jason with anything but they did get him to post a bond. That means he had to put up a required sum of money as an assurance that he would not stir up trouble in the future. If he did, he would forfeit his bond. In most cases getting a rabble rouser to post a bond would solve the problem.
Roman and Greek law is often the basis of the laws applied in the British Empire. British law contains many laws derived from Roman and Greek law. The practice of “habeas corpus” and the “posting of bonds” are two examples which shows where Western justice systems come from.
What happened after that? Absolutely nothing. After Jason or others who supported him had posted bond money they were free to go. You will see from the first verse of the next section that Paul and Silas were sent off to Berea that night. Luke tells us nothing more of what happened after that. There is no hint in the Thessalonians letters of any empathy between Paul and the believers in that place to the same degree that there is in the Philippian letter. The matter seemed to conclude with Paul and Silas’ departure.
Paul and Silas in Berea
That very night the believers sent Paul and Silas to Berea. When they arrived there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth. As a result, many Jews believed, as did many of the prominent Greek women and men. But when some Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God in Berea, they went there and stirred up trouble. The believers acted at once, sending Paul on to the coast, while Silas and Timothy remained behind. Those escorting Paul went with him all the way to Athens; then they returned to Berea with instructions for Silas and Timothy to hurry and join him.Acts 17:10-15
I have offered you up here the next section we will examine. I am sure you have worked out by now, the people in Berea are the ones with whom I feel the closest connection. Of all the people groups Peter or Paul visited through the Book of Acts these are the ones I feel closest to. Those who know me know why.
Take time now to dig into this section in true Deeper Bible fashion in preparation for our time in Berea. Yes, it is time for us to move on. Grab your pack and prepare to head out on the road again. We face a journey of 72 kilometers to get there. With a group the size of ours it will take us a good two day’s journey. I have booked us into the Hotel Veria (read Berea) which remains the longest standing hotel in the town and the cheapest. If you wish to change the booking and move up a class or two feel free, but you will need to pay the difference. Yes, you guessed it, Berea is now the modern town of Veria twenty-one centuries later. I trust the reputation of the Bereans from Paul’s day is still of the same high integrity.
The value of experience is not in seeing much but in seeing wisely.William Osler
Before embarking on a journey of discovery make sure you pick up your confidence, positivity and feelings of expectation.Ian Vail
When you change your attitude from pessimism to optimism, from fear to faith, you take important first steps to seeing your dream come true.Joyce Meyer
Set up markers for yourselves. Erect signposts for yourselves. Pay attention to the highway, to the road you traveled.Jeremiah 31:21