Scripture

Acts 21:1-16

21 After we had torn ourselves away from them, we put out to sea and sailed straight to Kos. The next day we went to Rhodes and from there to Patara. We found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, went on board and set sail. After sighting Cyprus and passing to the south of it, we sailed on to Syria. We landed at Tyre, where our ship was to unload its cargo. We sought out the disciples there and stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. When it was time to leave, we left and continued on our way. All of them, including wives and children, accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray. After saying goodbye to each other, we went aboard the ship, and they returned home.

We continued our voyage from Tyre and landed at Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and sisters and stayed with them for a day. Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.

10 After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’”

12 When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” 14 When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.”

15 After this, we started on our way up to Jerusalem. 16 Some of the disciples from Caesarea accompanied us and brought us to the home of Mnason, where we were to stay. He was a man from Cyprus and one of the early disciples.

Reflection

Paul was determined to go to Jerusalem. His friends, however, and the prophet Agabus all urged him not to go. They knew, through the power of the Holy Spirit, that Paul would face troubles in Jerusalem. They feared for Paul’s life and did not want to see him get hurt. We can easily understand this. We would not wish any of our loved ones to walk into harm’s way. We would try to dissuade our family and friends from doing anything that puts them at risk.

In an argument with his friends, Paul proclaimed that he would be willing to die for the cause of Jesus Christ. He offered this plea amongst his friends, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart?” You can hear the deep disappointment in this cry. Paul was fully committed to the will of God. He was willing to do anything, even die for this cause. He did not live in fear, though I am sure he had some. He was led by his desire to spread the good news of grace in Jesus Christ. I admire his determination and commitment. I wonder how committed I would be if my life were in danger. When the group could not dissuade Paul, they gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.” They accepted that he must go and they must let him.

It might be easy to think about Paul’s willingness to walk into harm’s way as something necessary 2000 years ago, but maybe not today. I would suggest that is not the case. I think about our frontline defenders (police officers, fire fighters, military, etc.) who walk into harm’s way every day for the sake of others. And there are the missionaries living in places like Burma, Sudan, and North Korea, where there is no freedom of religion. People in these countries risk persecution and jail to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. I also think about my friends dealing with cancer or other life-threatening diseases. They bravely walk into surgeries, treatments, and known side-effects, because risking their life is the only way to save their life.

I believe all of us in these positions, by choice or not, are in the company of the Apostle Paul. We don’t choose to walk into harm’s way for the sake of harm, but rather for the sake of life. Sometimes it is our own lives we ask to save and sometimes it is the lives of others. Either way, it is noble, and brave, and admirable. Paul said to the Philippians, “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:20-21) Paul knew what many today also know, that is to live a full life means to live embracing who God called you to be every step of the way, even if it leads to death. May each of us come to know this truth deep in our souls. 

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.