Trouble in the Capital!

20 Jun

Having come to the capital of Macedonia, Thessalonica, Paul and company preached the Gospel there. Paul, as was his custom, began by preaching in the synagogue of the city. This he did for two reasons. First of all, it was necessary to tell the Jews the Messiah had indeed come. For Paul not to begin with them would have been a grave insult, if not outright neglect. Secondly, during the first century CE the synagogue was home for gentiles who were ripe for the Gospel, in that they were already worshiping the God of Israel. They were the God-fearers who had not been circumcised, that is, they had not become Jews and had not broken off ties with other gentile friends. These would usually become the nucleus of the new church, together with any believing Jews.

The text in Acts 17:2 says Paul preached the Gospel in the synagogue for three successive Sabbaths. This, however, does not mean Paul had only spent three weeks in Thessalonica. On the contrary he was probably there for several months, and the three successive Sabbaths represent the climax of his mission. His later letter to the Thessalonians shows Paul had taken a job there so he would not seem to be taking advantage of them by preaching for gain (1Thessalonians 2:9; 2Thessalonians 3:8). Paul probably paid for his room and board at Jason’s home (Acts 17:5) or inn, if he normally used his place to accommodate travelers. The text does not say Jason’s place was an inn, but Paul’s later letters show he was not chargeable to anyone in Thessalonica when preaching the Gospel, and that would have included Jason. Moreover, in his letter to the Philippians he praised them for being the only church who shared with him, as it pertained to spreading the Gospel in Thessalonica, for they sent monetary help not once but twice (Philippians 4:15-16), showing Paul’s stay was longer than the three weeks he preached in the synagogue.

It seems that Paul was making friends and influencing people, as it were, while he stayed in Thessalonica. Whether he stayed with Jason from the very beginning or not is not mentioned in the text, but, if it was known by all the Jews that he was staying with him, it must have been for quite some time during his visit there. Nevertheless, when he was given the opportunity to speak at the synagogue, he “for three Sabbaths discussed with them the Scriptures, explaining them and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead” (Acts 17:2-3; Williams translation). He probably reasoned, as it is done today. Jesus was born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), of the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10), and a descendent of David (Isaiah 11:1, 10). Undoubtedly, Paul proved the Messiah came as predicted, suffering and dying for our sins (Daniel 9:24-27; Isaiah 53:1-12), but God would not let his body in the tomb to decay but raised him from the dead (Psalm 16:10), and not only so, but Jesus sits on the very throne of God (Psalm 110:1).

As was usually the case, most Jews did not believe. The fruit of Paul’s ministry was mostly gentiles. Moreover, the unbelieving Jews were often moved to jealousy. Perhaps this means the rabbis, who were supposed to know when the Messiah would come, had to have it made known to them like everyone else! On the other hand, perhaps they were jealous, because so many gentiles believed, making the Jews of the city the minority in their own synagogues. In any event, the unbelievers hired attorneys of little principle, the sort who engaged themselves in trivialities of the law. We see this kind even today, those through whom many innocent suffer while the guilty go free. Well, they succeeded in creating a ruckus, so that the magistrates were bound to take security from Jason and other believers with him that none of what the apostles had been accused would take place. In other words Jason became surety for Paul. Therefore, Paul left for Berea before anyone could use other matters to disturb the public and thereby cause harm to come to Jason and the others who spoke for him before the local authorities.

It is odd, is it not, that the Good News of Jesus’ salvation should be considered so political, when in its purest form, it has absolutely nothing to do with politics? Yet, even today folks think Christ can be legislated and battles are often fought in the political arena, even when Christ made it abundantly clear that his kingdom is not of this world. May God forgive us and help us to see.

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Posted by on June 20, 2011 in Paul's 2nd Missionary Journey


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