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.
Today’s chapter, like the one before it, contains Paul stories, but the very first story would be “Paul went through Macedonia and Greece, and when he headed back through Macedonia he went from Philippi to Troas, and he was joined by seven guys.” In Troas, we see another story where a young man falls out a third-story window, but the bulk of the chapter consists of Paul’s address at Miletus. In these latter stories, Luke appears to suggest some parallels between Paul and Jesus, so let’s dig into that, shall we?
Here, guys. Have some Paul stories.
In yesterday’s chapter, Paul preached his Mars Hill sermon, which we in our blog post for all intents and purposes ignored. Through the sermon, he won the interest of the Athenians and a non-trivial amount of converts, as well as a measure of scorn from some for believing that the dead can be raised. In today’s chapter, having made all the progress he can in Athens, he leaves of his own volition, for once not chased out by angry mobs, and goes to Corinth. And in Corinth, he finds a populace surprisingly receptive to the gospel.
You probably know Acts 17 for Paul’s sermon at Mars Hill. It’s a brilliant piece of apologetics, meeting the Greek population of Athens right where it is, starting from what’s laudable in their religious practices and leading those interested step-by-step to the truth of Christ’s resurrection. Here in Cincinnati, Mars Hill lends its name to a K-12 Christian private school, though when it comes to Mars Hill namesakes, you’re more likely to know of Mark Driscoll’s controversial and now-defunct Seattle-based megachurch. The earlier portions of Acts 17 really just kinda work the spotlight as the Mars Hill sermon takes center stage; after all, apart from the sermon, most of the chapter is just Paul going here and there. But let’s consider his here-and-there-going.
We’ve got a few different events that we could conceivably talk about from today’s chapter of Acts. Timothy makes his first appearance, the high-class fabric merchant Lydia becomes a Christian, Paul exorcises a spirit of divination and gets in trouble for it, and Paul and Silas go to and get out of jail. I could dig into any one of these events, and there’s a good chance I’ll hit more than one. But before I do, I want to hit an event so subtle you might easily miss it: the introduction of Luke.
As I read today’s chapter, I couldn’t help thinking: my, how far we’ve come.
So this is the part where Paul almost dies.
As many of you know, that well-worn Bible from the photos with the occasional handwritten marginal notes is my dad’s. He’s had it for nearly as long as I can remember; the date in the front cover is 8/28/88. I was five then. I used to look at the maps in the back, with their bright colors tracing out the boundaries of geopolitical regions and the travels of Christ and Paul. Much of their information went right over my elementary-school head, but now I’m older and wiser, or at least better educated, and for today’s chapter, those maps might conceivably come in handy. Paul connects with Barnabas and gets his first major missionary voyage underway, and two major events occur at Paphos on the island of Cyprus and on the mainland at Pisidian Antioch.
In today’s chapter, Peter lands himself in jail again. And while the first two times he was simply imprisoned, this time around it looks likelier than ever that he’ll end up executed, because this time he’s been imprisoned by a Herod.