The Book of Acts: Chapter 21 (pt 16 of 19)

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We like to think of ourselves as intelligent people who act wisely based on the facts (as we know them). However, the truth be told, most people are driven more by their desires than by facts and logic. That’s how a man can ignore his commitment to his wife and children, and have a illicit affair. Look at the advertisements in the media., they know why people “decide” to purchase various products. So, if we said that the Jews were “discontent” regarding Paul, and Jesus, for that matter, it would be quite an understatement for how they responded to Paul and the Gospel. They hated the gospel, and they wanted to kill Paul.

Their desire to kill Paul was so strong they only needed the hint of misconduct on Paul’s part to justify their hatred and anger. Here is the Supreme Court of Israel, a court that was supposed to make wise judgments, and yet they were completely driven by their discontent and their desires. No wonder Proverbs describes sin as a seductive woman. Granted, Proverbs also describes “Wisdom” as a woman, but her appeal is to the mind, not to fleshly lusts.

Notice that the Hellenistic (Asian) Jews state their case against Paul in a way that it incites the crowd to act emotionally. They don’t accuse Paul of defiling the temple with Gentiles until after they have repeated the same rumor that troubled James and the elders:

“Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people, our law, and this sanctuary! Furthermore he has brought Greeks into the inner courts of the temple and made this holy place ritually unclean!” —Acts 21:28

They are calling on their fellow-Jews to come to their aid—and they did. While some came as a result of the false rumors and flawed logic, others simply blindly followed the crowd without really knowing why. It happens all the time. Recently there were protests . . . okay, riots in Wisconsin over bargaining rights of Government employees. There were many none Government employees there—including children. One high schooler was interviewed, and when asked why he was there, he replied, “I don’t know [as he shrugged his shoulders]. Our teacher gave us the day off if we came out here. So we came out.”

That is what happened in Acts:

But some in the crowd shouted one thing, and others something else, and when the commanding officer was unable to find out the truth because of the disturbance, he ordered Paul to be brought into the barracks —Acts 21:34

The charges against Paul should sound familiar, because we have heard them before:

“Some stood up and gave this false testimony against him [Jesus]: ‘We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands and in three days build another not made with hands.’ Yet even on this point their testimony did not agree” —Mark 14:57-59

“Then they secretly instigated some men to say, ‘We have heard this man [Stephen] speaking blasphemous words against Moses and God.’ They incited the people, the elders, and the experts in the law; then they approached Stephen, seized him, and brought him before the council. They brought forward false witnesses who said, ‘This man does not stop saying things against this holy place and the law. For we have heard him saying that Jesus the Nazarene will destroy this place and change the customs that Moses handed down to us’” —Acts 6:11-14

Then the Jews tried to grab Paul and shouted, “Away with him!” (Acts 21:36). We have also heard these words before:

“Then they shouted out, ‘Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!’ Pilate asked, ‘Shall I crucify your king?’ The high priests replied, ‘We have no king except Caesar!’” —John 19:15 (see also Luke 23:18)

If interested, you can download the entire study of The Story of Acts

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