“Word for Today” – Acts 21 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

October 19, 2009 at 4:45 am Leave a comment

IHOP 1Have you ever needed to “get away”?  The last two weeks have been busy ones for me.  There were projects to complete, administrative tasks to juggle, and people to talk to.  In the middle of it all, I found myself ready for a reprieve.  Thus, on Saturday morning, I decided to “get away.”  And so, with a good book in hand, I drove to a nearby IHOP to feast on an omelet, drink some coffee, and spend a few moments in serenity.  It was just what my soul needed.  I returned to my tasks refreshed and renewed.

“Getting away” can be a marvelous thing.  However, what is marvelous when voluntary can turn dreadful when forced.  In other words, there is a huge difference between “getting away” and being told to “get away.”  The former is an act of refuge; the latter is an act of rejection.

In our reading for today from Acts 21, Paul “gets away.”  Unfortunately, rather than being a voluntary “get away,” it is a forced one.  Following a purification rite at Jerusalem’s temple, some Jews from the province of Asia begin hurling accusations at Paul:  “Men of Israel, help us! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple area and defiled this holy place” (verse 28).

The charge of bringing Greeks into the temple’s holy place was a serious one.  There was an inscription on Jerusalem’s temple which read:  “No Gentile may enter beyond the dividing wall into the court around the Holy Place; 
whoever is caught will be to blame for his subsequent death.”  Thus, if Paul had indeed brought these Gentile Greeks into the temple, his crime, according to this inscription, merited nothing less than the death penalty.  But Luke is quick to offer this interpretive gloss concerning Paul’s supposed crime: “They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple area” (verse 29).  In other words, the charges against Paul were trumped up and false.

As false as the charges of these Jews may have been, they are enough to stir the crowd into a frenzy:

The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut. While they were trying to kill him, news reached the commander of the Roman troops that the whole city of Jerusalem was in an uproar. The commander came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains. The crowd that followed kept shouting, “Away with him!” (verses 30-31, 33, 36)

“Away with him!”  Such are the biting words of rejection leveled at Paul.

As it is with the leader, so it is with his followers.  For Jesus had experienced an almost identical biting rejection to that of Paul’s.  Jesus is on trial before Pontius Pilate, appearing in front of an angry mob.  In an attempt to appease the crowd and spare Jesus’ life, Pilate announces, “I will punish him and release him” (Luke 23:16).  But the crowd is having none of it.  “Away with this man!” they shout vehemently.  “Crucify him!  Crucify him” (Luke 23:18, 21). Jesus is ordered away.  Jesus is rejected.

Even in the face of such vitriolic rejection, Jesus, in his infinite compassion, does not reject even those who reject him.  In fact, he invites them, as he did one time with his disciples, to “come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” (Mark 6:31).  Jesus wants us to “get away.”  But Jesus’ getaway is a gracious invitation of refuge rather than a damning order of rejection.

How often do you take Jesus up on his invitation and get away with him?  Do you spend quiet time with him in prayer?  Do you reflect deeply on his Word?  Do you ponder his blessings in your life?  This day and this week, take time to get away with Jesus.  It’s time you won’t regret.

Entry filed under: Word for Today.

“Word for Today” – Acts 20 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com “Word for Today” – Acts 22 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

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