Scripture

Acts 21:27-36

27 When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him,28 shouting, “Fellow Israelites, help us! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place.” 29 (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple.)

30 The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut. 31 While they were trying to kill him, news reached the commander of the Roman troops that the whole city of Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32 He at once took some officers and soldiers and ran down to the crowd. When the rioters saw the commander and his soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.

33 The commander came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains. Then he asked who he was and what he had done. 34 Some in the crowd shouted one thing and some another, and since the commander could not get at the truth because of the uproar, he ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. 35 When Paul reached the steps, the violence of the mob was so great he had to be carried by the soldiers. 36 The crowd that followed kept shouting, “Get rid of him!”

Reflection

When I read these verses, the phrase that comes to mind is “mob mentality.”    Paul had been warned that the Jerusalem Jewish Christians had it out for him because they thought he was dissuading others from following the law of Moses.

But here, after Paul demonstrated his commitment to the law through a purification ceremony, it is the Asian Jews that accosted Paul and accused him of teaching against the Jewish customs, the temple, and the Jews themselves. The uproar drew more people, many of which did not know what was going on in the first place. Quickly the crowd mentality took over, and all were trying to kill Paul.

Fortunately for Paul, a military officer intervened and took him out of the crowd. He arrested Paul and put him in chains, just to be safe. And when the officer inquired what the commotion was about, the crowd could not get their story straight. They shouted conflicting reports, yet one consistent theme, “Get rid of him!”

The soldiers had to carry Paul out of there because the mob was so intense. And yet, most of those in the crowd didn't really even know why they should be so angry at Paul. Mob mentality had set in, and they were out for blood.

It is easy to become one of the crowd. In fact, it is probably exciting to follow the mob. On the other hand, it takes a thoughtful, self-aware person to stand back, observe and determine if this crowd or cause is something with which to get involved. Sometimes it takes a determined crowd of people to make positive change happen. And other times the crowd only serves to escalate or exasperate an issue. May we each have the discernment to determine which is which, and the courage to follow through on that wisdom. 

Prayer

Dear God, I desire to live fully into who you call me to be. Show me the steps to take every day. Give me wisdom to discern your ways and courage to follow. Let me be a light in the world drawing others to you. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.