JohnSWilson3 Blog

“All of the disciples and their wives and children accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray.”
January 1, 2010, 5:14 pm
Filed under: E Acts

In the book of Acts chapters 20 and 21 Paul is returning to Syria, specifically to Jerusalem. It took him a little over a month to do so since they had “sailed from Philippi after the Feast of Unleavened Bread” and because Paul “was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost.” In this 40 days or so Paul is preparing for “prison and hardships” which “in every city the Holy Spirit” has warned him about. It seems something like what Matthew said in his gospel that when “Jesus was going to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, ‘We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!'” But Paul also knew that Jesus had given him an affection and a longing to visit the Christians in Rome and had asked that body of believers “by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed.” Perhaps Paul, after having written this letter in Corinth before he began his return trip to Jerusalem, shared these same words to the believers in the various places he visited. Interestingly, Paul had his companions with him, similarly like Jesus had His disciples with Him on their return trip to Jerusalem. A good time perhaps for Paul to share some of his greatest thoughts of living the life of Jesus with one another, something also Jesus did, especially during the night of the Last Supper before His crucifixion. Paul would have many Last Suppers in these 40 or so days.

Paul and his companions went first “back through Macedonia” to Philippi. Paul had possibly written his letter to the Philippians before he wrote his letter to the Romans, while in a prison in Ephesus. Paul always had the body of believers in Philippi on his heart, and must have had a wonderful time encouraging one another “with the affection of Christ Jesus” during the time of passover and “the Feast of Unleavened Bread” where they remembered that “the Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” How much joy Paul must have had with these Philippian Christians as they lived Jesus life together during the many meals he had with them!

They traveled then by ship to Troas where, with his companions and the church in Troas, “came together to break bread” and spent a week sharing Jesus’ life with them. And to see Eutychus raised from the dead must have been one of the greatest moments for this church to truly experience the resurrection power of Jesus in their midst!

Paul travels to Miletus and shares with the “elders of the church” in Ephesus, those who were older and more mature in living Jesus’ life in the body, the importance of living by the Spirit, serving one another in love, caring for the body of believers by helping them to keep Jesus as the Head of the body and to live by His life because of what Paul had seen what Satan had done to try and neutralize the life of Jesus in the other churches. What is awesome is that when he had finished speaking to the elders “he knelt down with them and prayed. They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him” because “what grieved them the most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.” How Paul must have loved this church, no wonder he could write later in prison how he would in prayer “keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” How Paul desired that every body of believers would know Jesus better by living a life of love towards one another! May this also be our prayer!

“After we had torn ourselves away from them, we put out to sea” and Paul and his companions “landed at Tyre” where they found “the disciples there” and “stayed with them seven days.” What an incredible time of fellowship they must have had together! Paul again must have shared his thoughts with these believers, similarly as he had done with the elders of Ephesus. As they experienced Jesus life together “through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go to Jerusalem.” How it troubles us when our other brothers and sisters are also troubled. The Spirit that lives in every believer, making us one with Him, it is difficult to let another brother or sister leave knowing that they will face trouble. Paul’s teachings on how to live the life of Jesus, the life of love, “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” that he had shared with the Roman church must have come to mind. They loved each other so much with the “affection of Christ Jesus” that when it was time to leave the whole family of believers, men, women, and children all “accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray. After saying good-by to each other, we went aboard the ship, and they returned home.” What incredible moments together with Jesus the body of Christ must have had in the various places Paul went! Paul still hadn’t made it to Jerusalem yet!

They landed “at Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and stayed with them for a day.” How Paul enjoyed the refreshing time of life with Jesus with the body of Christ! They finally “reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven” who “had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.” Paul must have had some wonderful conversations with Philip about the early life of the church in Jerusalem. Luke must have begun to hear the stories that he would later use to begin writing his gospel and later the book of Acts. What an incredible time for Luke, to be in the land of Jesus, his Savior and very life, and to begin recording what “all that Jesus began to do and to teach” and how through the life of Jesus the body of Christ would “be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” now that practically the known world had heard the good news of Jesus! Paul must have gotten to Caesarea ahead of schedule since it seemed he was no longer in a hurry to get to Jerusalem so he enjoyed the time of fellowship with the believers in Caesarea. “After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, ‘The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.”” Jesus was now speaking to Paul that the time was ready for him to leave to Jerusalem. But “when we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go to Jerusalem.” But Paul had heard all of this before. He understood that God was guiding him, that Jesus was behind the scenes orchestrating His plan to use him “to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name” which Jesus told him the day Paul first heard Him. Paul would not be moved from the purpose of Jesus and Paul answered them “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” Of course Paul “would not be dissuaded” so they “gave up and said, ‘The Lord’s will be done.'”

“After this, we got ready and went up to Jerusalem. Some of the disciples from Caesarea accompanied us and brought us to the home of Mnason, where we were to stay. He was a man from Cyprus and one of the early disciples.” How the body of Christ loves one another! Could we be that hospitable to other believers who need to stay with us for a day or so, or longer? Perhaps Mnason knew of Paul’s earliest companion Barnabus and shared stories together, perhaps Paul got caught up with what Barnanbus was doing in Cyprus, or perhaps got word of how Mark, who had been with Barnabus, had been writing a gospel that was being overseen by Peter and was now away working as a companion of Peter. That must have brought joy to Paul’s heart!

“When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers received us warmly. The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present. Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. When they heard this they praised God.” I expect that Paul provided the Gentile churches the “contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem.” What is interesting, while “they praised God” for what Jesus had been doing through Paul the next thing the Jewish Christian elders say speaks volumes. “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law.” The elder Jewish Christians seemed to have waved the hand about the contribution to the poor and so somehow this contribution really did not matter to these elders. How sad that the elders of a body of believers, who were to be living by the life of Jesus, would not receive a gift in the spirit that it was given to them, being overshadowed by whether a Jewish Christian, Paul, is “zealous for the law.” No wonder Paul wrote to the Jewish and Gentile Christians in the churches the way he did. May we be zealous for Jesus Christ, that he be are all in all, being Head and in control, allowing His life to be lived through one another! Let us not live by a law, tradition, program but by the law of Christ which is love. As Paul said in his letter to the churches in Galatia: “Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”


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