Today’s Chocolate: Tony’s Chocolonely Cherry Meringue Dark Chocolate
Today’s Passage: Acts 21
Today Paul finally arrives in Jerusalem. What awaits him there? Enemies, certainly, but also friends. For the first time since chapter 15’s concern over Gentile circumcision, we’ll see James again, and we’ll also see other disciples not mentioned by name. Philip even makes an appearance as Paul’s trip to Jerusalem takes him through Caesarea.
While in Caesarea, Paul also encounters one of his brothers in the faith, a Judean prophet named Agabus, who gives an Ezekiel-esque bit of prophetic performance art. He takes Paul’s belt, uses it to bind his own feet and hands, and declares, “This is what the Holy Spirit says: ‘In this way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles’” (11). And you remember what happens the last time the Jewish authorities handed over a man of God to the Gentiles, right? But Paul replies: “I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (13). He’s determined to follow the Spirit, even if it leads him to his own death.
As Paul meets with the brethren in Jerusalem, though, it comes to light that the Jews’ primary concern is that he’s selling out Judaism. The Jerusalem Christians explain: some are saying “that you are teaching all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs” (21). So what’s the solution? Paul is to go full Jew. Verses 23-24 reference a Jewish baseball so inside that even I had to look it up to recall what exactly it was about. The brethren further reiterate what they wrote in their letter to the Gentile churches, the practices that James himself pushed for: “that they should abstain from meat sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication” (25). Paul isn’t encouraging Jews to abandon their religious and cultural observances. On the contrary, he’s encouraging Gentiles to adopt certain practices from the Law of Moses!
When Paul undergoes the Torah-prescribed ritual purification to renew his vows as a Jew, his presence in the temple causes a scene, and a crowd forcibly ejects him from the building. A Roman commander hears of the unfolding incident and takes some troops on the scene to restore order. Paul is detained and brought to the barracks, fulfilling Agabus’ prophecy in the same chapter it was issued, but when it comes out that he speaks Greek, he’s able to convince the Roman commander to let him speak. Ladies and gentlemen, we are off to the races.