Acts 21:1-3 is the itinerary port-of-calls for Paul and his travel companions in his return to Jerusalem then Rome. In verse 3 we find them in Tyre, Syria waiting for their ship to be unloaded before embarking on his last leg to Jerusalem. Through the Spirit while in Tyre fellow believers tell Paul that Jerusalem is waiting his arrival to bind him over for trial by the Sanhedrin (Jewish Council); the same ones he once worked for as their bounty hinter of The Way (Jewish Christian) believers. Keep in mind Paul had no authority over the Greek members of The Way, but he did for those who were once within and now out of Judaism.
What it must have been for the awaiting ship to see a large group of Jesus believers kneeling on the beach in prayer then saying their goodbyes. How difficult it must have been for the believers to be forced to face up that they will no longer have their number one missionary minister.
In Acts 21:8 we once again find Phillip the Evangelist who had previously settled in Caesarea after his encounter with the Ethiopian Eunuch back in Acts 8. Go back to that chapter article to read the incredible connection between Phillip’s encounter outside of Gaza and the encounter of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba 980 years earlier. This is Phillip who is one of the seven chosen to handle the internal affairs of the church, not Phillip the Disciple of Jesus. There is room for discussion per Phillip’s identity but not in this article.
While staying at the house of Phillip, a prophet simply identified as Agabus drops in for a visit. He takes the belt of Paul and binds his own feet and wrists. He says the one whose belt this is will encounter the same treatment in Jerusalem.
“Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'”
What is odd if such a word as “odd” fits here, is Paul is cautioned by many about going to Jerusalem yet in Acts 23:11 he receives the Lord’s blessing that his next stop will be Rome. Back in Acts 19:21 Paul specifically states that Jerusalem and Rome are his destinies. Why so many have cautioned Paul about this leg of his last missionary journey is not explained. What is eye opening is how many of his followers understood his determination and against their will, God wanted him in Jerusalem. It reminds us of way back in Acts 9:16 where we find God stating “I will show him (Paul) the suffering he must go through to serve me.” This is shortly after the Road to Damascus experience. The Lord is talking to Ananias in Damascus. God wanted Ananias to heal Paul’s blindness. Ananias obeyed but knew full well of SANHEDRIN SAUL’s reputation against The Way.
Acts 21:12…”Then Paul answered, ‘What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.‘” [ESV]
The word “weeping or weep” is klah’-yo. It means not to sob or cry silently but to wail loudly. What a scene this must have been to onlookers. In both cases, that of Paul and that of his followers, was nothing short of heart wrenching. But…what a great way for God to show Paul’s followers that what he taught them is now up to them to carry on per the ministry and message of the cross. How do we know they knew it was their will to keep him and not that of God? In verse 14 [ESV] we see them finally releasing him in their hearts to the will of God, not their own will.
It is at this verse we find the group of Paul’s followers and Paul himself proceeding to Jerusalem. Once there they lodged in the home of Mnason of Cyprus. He was a very early conversion to the Way and came from Cyprus just as had Barnabas. This is the only time we hear of him. He may have known Barnabas.
JIV QUESTION: Has anyone noticed in this series of Acts articles that no one put Paul and company up in a motel? They lodged them in their own homes and supposedly fed them. In today’s church we do just the opposite. We book a room for him or her at a Motel 6 or if the guest speaker is renown s/he is put up in a Holiday Express or Inn. What little things can reveal about our hearts and true spirit.
Paul then meets with James. Significant because Luke determines to record it as the house of James in this passage of Acts. We do not know but supposition is this James is the brother of Jesus. We simply do not know but Luke saw this meeting as not one to simply relay the information of this last missionary journey but he points out that it is at the house of James. What power must have been in the testimony of Paul for James to hear of how his half-brother Jesus confronted Paul on the Road to Damascus; his conversion, then his dedication to The Way. What a thrill to serve Jesus and meet up and stay at the house of Jesus brother.
Finally we get a number to relate to Paul’s missionary successes. Acts 21:20 states: “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed.” Yes you read that correctly… thousands. Here we once again get an insight per denominational-ism and tradition in church. In Acts 21:21b we read of the TRADITIONS OF THE JEWS no longer being an issue to those of The Way. This understanding of traditions has been replaced over hundreds of years by reintroducing individual denominational traditions and customs. So much so that the customs become primary to the worship service at the expense of leaving the Holy Spirit out in the church parking lot waiting for HIS turn to come into the worship service. First the praise team, then announcements of coming events, social and otherwise, then a traditional prayer like the Lord’s Prayer, followed by some type of reading for the sake of bible reading, an offering and commitment to the building fund, comments on the most recent soup kitchen or fund raising, the social media, sign the registrar before leaving, then perhaps something from the pulpit that certainly is a politically correct sermon.
Acts 21:23…“We have four men who are under a vow; take these men and purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses…”
Vows are steeped in Jewish tradition. It is something the high priest and Sanhedrin might honor as sincerity demonstrated (shaved heads) and with a degree of traditional sincerity of their own. Purifying themselves then presenting themselves at the Temple as being under a vow may allow Paul to phase back into Jerusalem. Paul is told to “purify himself along with these other four men.” Why? To demonstrate that even Paul subjects himself to Jewish Law.
“But as for the Gentiles…” (V25). Since the Gentiles are not subject to Jewish laws or the Sanhedrin, they are a different issue even though members of the same fellowship of believers; i.e. The Way.
Paul’s purification and presenting himself to the high priest as under a vow did not work. Men from Asia, those who sought to destroy him, caught sight of him in Jerusalem. So what happens? Once again they start the rumor mill. No evidence is presented but accusations abound. Even as in the United States today, people of status or public image take on a degree of guilt without evidence once accused. Before the seven days of purification are complete, Paul finds himself under the finger of false (news) accusations.it must be for a few visitors to be able to stir up the locals on charges without evidence. How dense were people back then and are even so today. The people these outsiders from Asia stirred up were the Jews of Jerusalem. But every crowd or disturbance attracts on lookers. Most of the Gentiles were outsiders per the Sanhedrin. But as it says in Acts 19, most did not even know why they were there (in the riot crowd); perhaps even many Jews. This may also be true in this riot.
How dizzying As these event unfold, the Roman soldiers needed to be called in to “rescue” Paul from the mob. When the soldiers arrived they stopped beating Paul. They had yet to learn that Paul was a Roman citizen by birth. To beat a Roman was a crime against the State. Jews doing this could be punished by death.