Paul’s Crisis Management in Jerusalem
Paul was arrested in Jerusalem by a mob that tried to kill him but were forced to surrender him to the custody of Roman authorities. He tried to diffuse the crisis by showing respect to Jewish law, custom, and heritage; the Roman commander; and his rights as a Roman citizen. Although his attempt at crisis management did not end the persecution, the attempt was successful because the persecution changed from beating and torture to detention and a series of public trials and hearings. Also, the trials and hearings became an opportunity for Paul to preach the gospel among his people in Jerusalem and Caesarea as he had in parts of Europe and Asia.
In this installment of our study on Responding to Adversity, we discuss Paul’s interactions at his arrest in Jerusalem to learn about managing adversity by taking deliberate actions to reduce the intensity of a developing crisis. Paul was attacked in Jerusalem by a mob of Jews stirred up through public accusations against his teaching and religious allegiance. The local Roman commander rescued him from the mob by arresting and taking custody of him. We discuss his interactions with the Roman commander and with the mob to understand his attempt at diffusing the crisis.
He showed himself respectful of the commander when he ignored the commander’s obvious but irrelevant mistake and focused instead on providing information to introduce himself. Regarding the mob, he almost won them over by presenting himself as a “son of the soil:” sharing with them the same language; laws, custom, and traditions; and respect for the same heroes and heritage. However, his peace with the mob was short-lived as he re-ignited their ire by reminding them of his long sojourn among Gentiles and his claim of common destiny with the Gentiles. Thus, the persecution continued despite his attempt at diffusing the crisis. Although he was not able to free himself from persecution, his effort at crisis management was partially successful as he asserted his Roman citizenship to win protection against torture or any punishment without trial. He would be tried publicly to determine if he did anything deserving punishment.
Additionally, he used the opportunity of addressing the mob to preach the gospel in Jerusalem for the first time, as he had during missionary journeys through parts of Europe and Asia. He would go on to also preach to other predominantly Jewish audience during trials in Caesarea. Therefore, although his attempt at diffusing the crisis did not end the persecution, the attempt was successful in that it transformed the persecution into a series of trials and public hearings and, thus, an opportunity for him to preach the gospel among his people in Jerusalem and Caesarea as he had in parts of Europe and Asia.