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Paul's Arrest

Like Jesus at His Triumphal Entry, Paul enters Jerusalem to acclaim, which is then quickly followed by his arrest. After years of ministering outside of Jerusalem, he returns to celebrate the feast, and the brothers gladly hear his account of gospel work among the Gentiles. Unfortunately, the Jewish attitude towards the law is still unsettling consciences among the believers, and is still driving unbelievers into a murderous frenzy.

The believing leaders transition from rejoicing over Paul’s report into a special request for Paul. “Prove to the Jewish believers that you still keep the law, Paul.” They instruct him to assist four brothers in completing their vows and to be purified with them at the temple. Paul honors them by obeying their request, but they shouldn’t have had to put him up to it.

From this example you need to learn to rejoice whenever God grants a great spiritual harvest to Christians who follow different rules than you do. When revival breaks out at Authentically Cool Assembly or Cranky Fundamentalist Church, rejoice! Don’t interrupt their joyful testimony in order to straighten them out about things that don’t matter in God’s sight.

You also learn how to behave when attending a church that is very different from your own. Imitate Paul and become all things to all men. Drink grape juice and eat sawdust crackers for communion. Sing trite praise choruses louder than anyone else in the building. If their version of passing the peace includes chit-chat about the ball game or the weather, don’t go on a one-man crusade to say “The peace of the Lord be with you.” Worship with them, which means worshiping like them.

Press this into the Christian life, too: don’t let different lifestyles disrupt Christian fellowship. Whether it’s education, entertainment, or discipleship practices like family worship or the church calendar, Christians do things differently. You are not called to set them all straight. Love them, don’t judge them. Bend over backwards to conform to their practices when you’re with them. They honestly believe that God loves their rules, and you should too. You know that God doesn’t care about their rules, but He’s not asking you to love their rules. He’s asking you to love them. Paul kept these customs because he loved his kinsmen.

Tragically, even though Paul bends over backwards to honor the Jewish laws and customs, it doesn’t matter. The Jews observe Paul keeping the law, and assume that he is breaking the law, and another riot breaks out. The whole city is stirred up, and Paul is dragged out of the temple to be murdered. Thankfully, the tribune finds out, and pagan Roman justice comes and saves Paul from God’s chosen people.

Jesus had warned that while there would be forgiveness offered to those who rejected Him, there would be judgment for those who rejected the Spirit. And this is exactly what happens. The official response of God’s people to Jesus was “Away with Him!” and now their response to the Spirit speaking through Paul is the same. “Away with him!” And in less than twenty years, Jerusalem will be destroyed, and the temple torn apart.

This is heartbreaking, but the danger is that you will look with pity on the fools who said it, without realizing that every time you sin you are saying the same thing. Every time you choose sin over obedience, you are saying to Jesus, to the Holy Spirit, “Away with you.” Rejecting God is not simply a mistake that some Jews made thousands of years ago. This is the mistake that you make every day.

The good news is that despite the fact that we say this to Jesus, Jesus says to God: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” In spite of our rejection, Jesus never looks at you and says, “Away with him; away with her.” Instead, He says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

So what do you do when you are despised and rejected for believing in Jesus? You preach the redeeming grace of Christ, grace that transforms hateful sinners into sons and daughters of God. What do you do when your own sin cries out “Away with him!”? You repent of your sins, and believe the good news: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.

Posted on Wednesday, April 29, 2015 by CJ Bowen