Scripture

Acts 21:1-25

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.

Paul’s Arrival at Jerusalem

17 When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers and sisters received us warmly. 18 The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present. 19 Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.

20 When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. 21 They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. 22 What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, 23 so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. 24 Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everyone will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law. 25 As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.”

Reflection

Paul had been warned by the prophet Agabus that if he went to Jerusalem, he would be handed over to the Gentiles. Paul’s friends begged him not to go, but he would not be deterred, “I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” And as Agabus had prophesied, Paul was handed over to the Gentiles in Jerusalem. Paul understood God’s calling on his life. He had learned to follow the Spirit’s leading rather than listening only to his human counterparts and even his own desires. Paul knew that God was calling him onward and forward, without fear.

Paul continued to face many unknowns and dangers. But, trusting God, this also provided more opportunities to witness. Paul never let an opportunity pass. In fact, by appealing to Caesar, new doors were opened that would allow Paul to share the good news of Christ with more people, even Roman leaders.

God calls us onward, even when the future is unclear or unknown. God calls us to trust him each step of the way, and to seize every opportunity to serve God’s purposes. It takes courage, and a deep trust in God. 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 consider the many people we know who are facing cancer or other life-threatening illness. They bravely walk into surgeries, treatments, and known side-effects, because risking their life is the only way to save their life. And in the midst of devastating news, they hold fast to their faith. They find a peace in knowing God is with them in all of it, so what really do they have to lose? 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 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.

Are you living with courage, trusting God with your life? It’s hard to do, but is ultimately the greatest way of life, the way of Jesus, and of Paul.

Prayer

God, I commit my way to you. I am ready to follow your call, no matter the direction. Guide me with your Spirit and give me courage to follow you closely. May I continue to grow in my trust and faith in you, oh Lord. You are my rock and my redeemer. Thank you for loving me so. Amen.