Acts 22: 27 When the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia, who had seen him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd. They seized him, 28 shouting, “Fellow Israelites, help! This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against our people, our law, and this place; more than that, he has actually brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place”… 30 Then all the city was aroused, and the people rushed together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and immediately the doors were shut. 31 While they were trying to kill him, word came to the tribune of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32 Immediately he took soldiers and centurions and ran down to them. When they saw the tribune and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. 33 Then the tribune came, arrested him, and ordered him to be bound with two chains; he inquired who he was and what he had done. 34 Some in the crowd shouted one thing, some another; and as he could not learn the facts because of the uproar, he ordered him to be brought into the barracks. 35 When Paul came to the steps, the violence of the mob was so great that he had to be carried by the soldiers. 36 The crowd that followed kept shouting, “Away with him!” 37 Just as Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the tribune, “May I say something to you?” The tribune replied, “Do you know Greek? 38 Then you are not the Egyptian who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand assassins out into the wilderness?” 39 Paul replied, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of an important city; I beg you, let me speak to the people.” 40 When he had given him permission, Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the people for silence; and when there was a great hush, he addressed them in the Hebrew language…
There is an extraordinary pattern we see in the book of Acts. As Paul travels from place to place proclaiming the gospel and planting churches, he is often accused of wrongdoing, apprehended by the authorities, beaten, jailed, and then brought before a local authority figure (in this case, the “tribune”) for questioning and judgment. It’s as Paul states in Acts 20:22-23:
22 And now, as a captive to the Spirit, I (Paul) am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and persecutions are waiting for me.
The “imprisonment and persecutions” are not a punishment, but an intentional strategy for getting Paul before the local authorities – where he can give his testimony about Jesus “in every city”. And the Church grows one city at a time.
Lord Jesus, I realize this strategy was not something Paul devised, but You. From my perspective it seems almost impossible that Paul went along with this. Willingly. And yet you not only gave Paul a method for sharing the gospel, you gave Paul the grace needed to follow through with such a difficult task. Give me grace, dear Lord, to faithfully follow where you lead, trusting that you will meet me in that space. However painful and difficult it may be. I pray this in your most holy name. Amen.