Acts 20-21
(Paul Goes to Jerusalem)
November 20th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

For Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus, because he would not spend the time in Asia: for he hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost.

- Acts 21:16 (KJV)

Summary of Chapters

The story written by Luke in these chapters parallels that of Jesus’ final days recorded in the Gospels - except that this time it is Paul who is going to Jerusalem knowing he will be arrested.

In chapter 20, Luke observes that the Jews were plotting against Paul. He then records that while in Troas, Paul was involved in raising a young man from the dead after he fell from a window on the third floor of a building. Paul “put his arms around him. ‘Don’t be alarmed,’ he said. ‘He’s alive!’ (Acts 20:10 - NIV)”

Paul then prepares for his final journey to Jerusalem by saying farewell to the elders of the church of Ephesus, reminding them that they must be the shepherd.

In chapter 21, Luke continues the description of Paul’s journey as he stops in several cities along the way, and is cared for by other Christians at each stop. In Caesarea, for example, a prophet warned that Paul would be bound and handed over to the Gentiles. Instead of responding in fear Paul responds with the same type of courage and obedience as his Savior.

    After several days of visiting, a prophet from Judea by the name of Agabus came down to see us. He went right up to Paul, took Paul’s belt, and, in a dramatic gesture, tied himself up, hands and feet. He said, “This is what the Holy Spirit says: The Jews in Jerusalem are going to tie up the man who owns this belt just like this and hand him over to godless unbelievers.”

    When we heard that, we and everyone there that day begged Paul not to be stubborn and persist in going to Jerusalem. But Paul wouldn’t budge: “Why all this hysteria? Why do you insist on making a scene and making it even harder for me? You’re looking at this backward. The issue in Jerusalem is not what they do to me, whether arrest or murder, but what the Master Jesus does through my obedience. Can’t you see that?”

    We saw that we weren’t making even a dent in his resolve, and gave up. “It’s in God’s hands now,” we said. “Master, you handle it.”

    - Acts 21:10-14 (MSG)

Shortly after he arrived in Jerusalem Paul was attacked by a mob of rabid Jews who tried to kill him. The Roman commanders rescued Paul from the crowd, but bound him in chains. Before being taken away Paul asked to address the crowd.

His speech is recorded in the next chapter. Click back here tomorrow to find out what he says.

Reflection and Application

In the Gospel we learned that the religious leaders were plotting against Jesus. This knowledge did not lead him to act in more subtle terms, but instead he performed one of his most significant miracles by bringing Lazarus back to life. Knowing that this act would further infuriate the leaders he also began deepening the training of the disciples and explained to them the concept of servant leadership.

When Paul sensed that his time was ending he continued to preach and had faith to believe that the Lord would bring a young man back to life. He also recognized the need for giving final instructions, and told some of the sheep that they must step up and become the shepherds, just as the disciples had done.

Looking back from our era to the first century we can see that the mantle of leadership has been passed from one generation to another, beginning with Jesus and his disciples, then to the people in all the cities visited by Peter, Paul and others, and then on to the current generation of leaders. If we are called by God to share this leadership role we can remember that we are helping to connect a chain that goes back a couple of millennium. We also have a responsibility to help ensure it goes forward into the future.

Paul probably believed the prophet’s claim about the dangers ahead, but was not deterred. We will read in the next sections how this prophecy came true. In fact, Paul is brought back in some type of bounded fashion to the very town in which this prophecy was uttered.

In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus accepted God’s will for him and the pain he would endure. In the same way, Luke and his companions reasoned that Paul had accepted his cross and drew the same conclusion that Jesus had taught them: ‘The Lord’s will be done.’

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What situations have you been in where you became one of the new leaders as the old leader moved on?
    2. What risks are you willing to take on behalf of God?
    3. What is God’s will for you today?

    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we thank you for all the leaders who have gone before us, sacrificing themselves in your name. Please give us courage to heed your call and accept your will.

    Prayer Concern
    Newly appointed leaders in business and politics

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Acts 22-23 (Jurisdictional Conflict)

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