Heading Back to Jerusalem – Departing Tyre
After saying farewell to the Ephesian elders, we sailed straight to the island of Cos. The next day we reached Rhodes and then went to Patara. There we boarded a ship sailing for Phoenicia. We sighted the island of Cyprus, passed it on our left, and landed at the harbour of Tyre, in Syria, where the ship was to unload its cargo. We went ashore, found the local believers, and stayed with them a week. These believers prophesied through the Holy Spirit that Paul should not go on to Jerusalem. When we returned to the ship at the end of the week, the entire congregation, including women and children, left the city and came down to the shore with us. There we knelt, prayed, and said our farewells. Then we went aboard, and they returned home.Acts 21:1-6
Next Stop – Ptolemais and Caesarea
The next stop after leaving Tyre was Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and sisters and stayed for one day. The next day we went on to Caesarea and stayed at the home of Philip the Evangelist, one of the seven men who had been chosen to distribute food. He had four unmarried daughters who had the gift of prophecy. Several days later a man named Agabus, who also had the gift of prophecy, arrived from Judea. He came over, took Paul’s belt, and bound his own feet and hands with it. Then he said, “The Holy Spirit declares, ‘So shall the owner of this belt be bound by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem and turned over to the Gentiles.’”
When we heard this, we and the local believers all begged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. But he said, “Why all this weeping? You are breaking my heart! I am ready not only to be jailed at Jerusalem but even to die for the sake of the Lord Jesus.” When it was clear that we couldn’t persuade him, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.” After this we packed our things and left for Jerusalem. Some believers from Caesarea accompanied us, and they took us to the home of Mnason, a man originally from Cyprus and one of the early believers.Acts 21:7-16
Reaching Jerusalem Where Paul is Warned of Jewish Opposition
When we arrived, the brothers and sisters in Jerusalem welcomed us warmly. The next day Paul went with us to meet with James, and all the elders of the Jerusalem church were present. After greeting them, Paul gave a detailed account of the things God had accomplished among the Gentiles through his ministry. After hearing this, they praised God. And then they said, “You know, dear brother, how many thousands of Jews have also believed, and they all follow the law of Moses very seriously. But the Jewish believers here in Jerusalem have been told that you are teaching all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn their backs on the laws of Moses. They’ve heard that you teach them not to circumcise their children or follow other Jewish customs. What should we do? They will certainly hear that you have come. “Here’s what we want you to do. We have four men here who have completed their vow. Go with them to the Temple and join them in the purification ceremony, paying for them to have their heads ritually shaved. Then everyone will know that the rumours are all false and that you yourself observe the Jewish laws. “As for the Gentile believers, they should do what we already told them in a letter: They should abstain from eating food offered to idols, from consuming blood or the meat of strangled animals, and from sexual immorality.”Acts 21:17-25
So Paul went to the Temple the next day with the other men. They had already started the purification ritual, so he publicly announced the date when their vows would end and sacrifices would be offered for each of them. The seven days were almost ended when some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul in the Temple and roused a mob against him. They grabbed him, yelling, “Men of Israel, help us! This is the man who preaches against our people everywhere and tells everybody to disobey the Jewish (For earlier that day they had seen him in the city with Trophimus, a Gentile from Ephesus, and they assumed Paul had taken him into the Temple.)
The whole city was rocked by these accusations, and a great riot followed. Paul was grabbed and dragged out of the Temple, and immediately the gates were closed behind him. As they were trying to kill him, word reached the commander of the Roman regiment that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. He immediately called out his soldiers and officers and ran down among the crowd. When the mob saw the commander and the troops coming, they stopped beating Paul. Then the commander arrested him and ordered him bound with two chains. He asked the crowd who he was and what he had done. Some shouted one thing and some another. Since he couldn’t find out the truth in all the uproar and confusion, he ordered that Paul be taken to the fortress. As Paul reached the stairs, the mob grew so violent the soldiers had to lift him to their shoulders to protect him. And the crowd followed behind, shouting, “Kill him, kill him!”Acts 21:26-36
Paul Talks with the Roman Commander
As Paul was about to be taken inside, he said to the commander, “May I have a word with you?” “Do you know Greek?” the commander asked, surprised. “Aren’t you the Egyptian who led a rebellion some time ago and took 4,000 members of the Assassins out into the desert?” “No,” Paul replied, “I am a Jew and a citizen of Tarsus in Cilicia, which is an important city. Please, let me talk to these people.” The commander agreed, so Paul stood on the stairs and motioned to the people to be quiet. Soon a deep silence enveloped the crowd, and he addressed them in their own language, Aramaic.Acts 21:37-40
I have divided the text for you. Now I wish to add some general comments to draw your attention to some features of the text. Luke gives us a rather more comprehensive account of the journey to Jerusalem than he usually does. There have been times when the journey has been very light on details in Luke’s rush to move the story on. In this case he has given us a little vignettes to key us into the breaks in the journey and tell us what happened in some rather insignificant places. Luke has clearly taken a record of what happened along the way. Some have questioned where Luke got his details but I am not going to do that. Note the presence of the 1st Person Pronoun “we” and “us”. It is clear that Luke accompanied Paul on this journey. It is Luke himself who is choosing what to tell us from his travel log. Now that bears some thinking about. In the past accounts through Acts Luke has carefully selected the things he tells us in order to move his story forward. Pay attention to what he selects. Notice the contrasts Luke draws by the way he selects his material – what he chooses to tell us and what he doesn’t.
Look at the map and ask yourself why they stopped at certain places and not others?
- Why does Luke gives us brief descriptions in the places they stopped?
- Does Luke have a particular purpose behind his telling to the journey to Jerusalem through what he selects and how he tells the story?
Remember you can often tell a person’s purpose in what they are telling you by observing what they are NOT telling you. Remember also this journey is a sea voyage as opposed to an overland journey; notice there are little touches here and there which make that clear to us. But there are also some confusing aspects to Luke description. Note also the timing indications in the text.
- How long they stay in one place as opposed to another?
- What elements in the text cause questions to arise?
- Are there things that you wish Luke had told us that he omits?
- Are there things in the story which puzzle you?
- Because this is a journey make sure you keep your map close.
- Why does Luke include the story of Agabus?
- Is there a place in the text where you would make a change to the chapter break Robert Estienne has chosen for us?
Hint: There are some curious features to Robert Estienne’s decisions on the chapter break and the verse divisions.
- Can you tell from the text where Luke is placing the emphasis?
- What things he focuses on and what things he skips over?
If you stand back from the text in this chapter and compare it with the pattern of Acts as a whole you will notice some similarities.
We will work our way through the passage section by section answering some of these points and more. But as usual I am open to your questions about the text which you would like addressed as well. Remember you have not because you ask not. I will take the time to deal with questions you ask as readers as I have in the past. The website is not yet fully functional so I suspect questions will be less than normal. If you have difficulty sending your questions use my standard email address at this stage – [email protected]
Once a person is determined to help themselves, there is nothing that can stop them.Nelson Mandela
To keep a lamp burning we have to keep putting oil in it.Mother Teresa
The important thing is not being afraid to take a chance. Remember, the greatest failure is to not try. Once you find something you love to do, be the best at doing it.Debbi Fields
The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer.Henry David Thoreau