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.
Paul returned to Jerusalem despite warnings of impending persecution. He believed returning to Jerusalem was important to completing his mission. Instead of giving in to the threat of persecution, he relied on his faith of God’s purpose, declaring he was ready “not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” He stayed on mission despite the threat of severe adversity, subsequently endured through the adversity, but expanded his ministry as a result, more than he could have imagined.
We continue our study series on Responding to Adversity with a discussion of Paul’s return to Jerusalem after missionary journeys to parts of Europe and Asia. He was determined to return to Jerusalem despite a premonition of impending adversity. Also, during the trip from Ephesus through Tyre and Caesarea, he was warned of persecution awaiting him. First, disciples that hosted his team in Tyre counseled him against proceeding to Jerusalem. Second, Prophet Agabus met him and companions in Caesarea and warned him through unusual but emphatic drama that he will be arrested and persecuted. Third, his companions and other well wishers in Caesarea tried to dissuade him from returning to Jerusalem.
Despite the warnings, Paul was determined to return to Jerusalem even if it meant walking into his own grave [Acts 21:13]: “Then Paul answered, ‘What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’” Later events and Paul’s interactions with other people through the events lead us to an understanding of his determination to return to Jerusalem despite the threat of severe adversity through persecution.
Example from Mordecai-Esther Interaction—
Understanding Adversity through Bigger Picture
Queen Esther initially was reluctant to honor Mordecai’s request that she appeal to the king against an edict to annihilate Jews. She feared violating a law against visiting the king uninvited, which could attract punishment by death. However, Mordecai redirected her to see the request as an opportunity to use her royal access to appeal the annihilation order and win deliverance for her people. Having thus seen the bigger picture, she called for prayer and fasting and vowed to appeal to the king even if it meant the ultimate punishment: “And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!”
We continue the study series on Responding to Adversity with focus on Mordecai’s life in captivity. We examine his life during the period in terms of three interactions. As we discuss in a previous study under Living in the Image of God through Adversity—Example from Mordecai, the interactions underscore Mordecai’s commitment to worship and serve God and living to uphold the commitment even in adversity. Also, the interactions triggered event sequences that coalesced to propel Mordecai over his adversity.
The interactions are: (1) he raised his uncle’s orphan daughter as his, (2) reported an assassination plot against the king, and (3) refused to worship an agent of the king even while facing a threat of execution for his refusal. As we discuss in the previous study, he not only raised the daughter but guided her to winning a contest to become the new queen of the land. Also, her position as queen cleared the way for Mordecai to report an assassination plot that he uncovered and earn recorded credit for the report.
This study focuses on events that arose from the third interaction: Mordecai had declined to honor king’s agent Haman because the type of honor demanded of him conveyed connotation of worship. He would not perform the act of honor because it would violate his commitment to worship God, and only God. His refusal to worship Haman ignited an event sequence that initially caused his adversity to grow in scope and intensity before ultimately leading him to triumph over the adversity.
During trials in Jerusalem and Caesarea after his return from Ephesus, Paul demonstrated respect for Jewish laws and custom and for constituted authority. Also, he invoked his civil rights several times to win protection under the law.
BASIS FOR RESPECT FOR AUTHORITY As Paul explained in his letter to the Romans several years later [Romans 13:1–7], and Peter in his epistle [1 Peter 2:13-18], respect for authority is part of God’s mandate and a key aspect of Christian responsibilities to society. People in authority positions (such as president or prime minister, king or queen, governor, clergy, teacher, supervisor, parents, or any person in a position of leadership) help to preserve and propagate natural order and are God’s channels for protecting the good elements of society from the bad. Therefore, we honor God when we respect human authorities.
TWO-PART BIBLE STUDY In this two-part bible study, we discuss Paul’s trial in Jerusalem and Caesarea and subsequent transfer to Rome, to highlight interactions with his Jewish accusers and the Roman authorities and his invoking his rights of citizenship as part of his defense. The current discussion builds on the discussion of his Jerusalem trials in Part 1. Here, we discuss the trials in Caesarea and his transfer to Rome, where he preached the gospel as he did previously in Jerusalem, thereby fulfilling God’s promise to him regarding the trials.
RESPECT FOR AUTHORITY Respect for human authority is part of God’s mandate and a key aspect of the civil responsibilities of a Christian. As Apostles Peter [1 Peter 2:13–18] and Paul [Romans 13:1–7] explain, people in authority position; such as president or prime minister, king or queen, governor, clergy, teacher, supervisor, parents, or any person in a leadership position; have been assigned rights and responsibilities to preserve and propagate one or more aspects of natural order and to protect the good elements of society from the bad. Every authority has been established by God to serve one or more such purpose. Therefore, respect and honor for authority and for laws and customs that define or establish the authority is part of our responsibilities to society.
TWO-PART BIBLE STUDY This is a two-part study of Paul’s civil trials and defense after his return to Jerusalem from sojourn in Ephesus. The trials started in Jerusalem, continued in Caesarea, and eventually took him to Rome. During the trials, Paul demonstrated his respect for authority and invoked civil rights when necessary to support his defense. In Part 1 of the study, we look at his interactions with the authority and his accusers in Jerusalem. Part 2 discusses the trials in Caesarea and Paul’s transfer to Rome thereafter.
INVOCATION OF CIVIL RIGHTS At several points in the trial, Paul invoked his civil rights while respecting the authority and due process to influence the trial proceedings. In one remarkable example, his invocation of civil rights and respect for due process and the authority of Emperor Caesar triggered a chain of events that led to fulfilling God’s promise to him that he will proclaim the gospel in Rome as he did in Jerusalem. Going to Rome not only provided him an opportunity to extend his ministry there but also ended the trial that started in Jerusalem. Therefore, one can say that his respect for civil rights and responsibilities placed him in position to work in alliance with God.
THE PRINCIPLE An individual could assess his/her performance periodically relative to self-established goals, make changes as necessary to improve future performance, and thereby seek to approach closer to God’s purpose.
MOTIVATION The idea is motivated by an interaction between Paul and Ephesian elders just before he departed from their region. He declared he had completed his task for the region, enumerated specific accomplishments, exhorted them to remain steadfast, and informed them he was leaving and did not intend to return to the region. What Paul did here was a self-assessment at the end of a specific task to make a case that he accomplished the assigned objective. In an earlier biblical parallel, Joshua assessed his performance before the leaders and elders of Israel after several decades of leading them successfully to take ownership of territory that God promised them through their ancestors.
You may have at times needed to mediate in a dispute between two parties, calm down a crowd, or help an individual resolve an internal conflict. The bible provides guidance on conducting mediation, through several successful examples. We discuss a few of the examples to understand what they did and from them learn how to prepare for, and the approach to conducting, a mediation.
The first example comes from a city clerk defusing a mob in Ephesus during Paul’s mission with Silas. A large crowd had gathered in the city theater and threatened to riot. The city clerk calmed and dispersed the crowd by explaining the facts in a way to convince them the riot was not necessary. We will also look at King Solomon’s mediation of a dispute between two ladies over a baby and commander Joab helping King David resolve an internal dispute between David the father and David the king. We use these examples to learn the Christian basis for, and approach to, mediation. The study is presented in two sessions. This session focuses on using the Scriptures (e.g., Christ’s teaching on seeking peace and Paul’s letters to the Romans and Galatians) to understand the city clerk’s successful mediation in Ephesus.