April 25, Saturday
Some of the disciples from Caesarea went along with us. They brought us to the home of Mnason, a native of Cyprus and one of the earliest disciples, where we stayed. On our arrival at Jerusalem the brothers were glad to see us. On the following day Paul went with us to visit James, and all the elders were present. After greeting them, he gave them a detailed account of all that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.
They praised God upon hearing the report and said to Paul,
“You know, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews who, though having become believers, still remain very zealous about upholding the Law. A rumor has spread among them that you teach all Jews who live among the Gentiles to disregard the Law of Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children nor observe the old customs. We’re concerned about what may happen once they hear that you have arrived.
“We have an idea that may calm their fears. There are four men here who have made a vow. Why don’t you join them and be purified with them? You might even pay their expenses so that they can get their hair cut. Then everyone will know there is no truth in the stories about you but that you also observe the Law.
“Mind you, we’re not suggesting that any of this be imposed on the Gentiles who have believed. We have sent them a letter explaining that they should abstain from what has been offered to idols, from blood and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality.”
So Paul joined the four men and on the following day, after being purified with them, went into the Temple to give notice about the period of purification, when it would be finished, and what offering would be made on behalf of each one of them.
The seven days were almost over when some Jews from Asia saw Paul in the Temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and shouted, “Men of Israel, help us! This is the man who is teaching everywhere against our people, our Law, and this Temple. Besides, he has brought Greeks into the Temple and has defiled this Holy Place!” This last accusation was because they had seen Trophimus the Ephesian with Paul in the city, and they assumed that Paul had brought him into the Temple.
The whole city was stirred by their speech. They seized Paul and dragged him outside the Temple, and the doors were slammed behind him.
They were about to kill him when a report reached the commander of the Roman cohort that the whole of Jerusalem was in an uproar. He immediately took soldiers and centurions and ran down into the crowd.
When the people saw the official and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. The commander took hold of Paul and arrested him, ordering that he be bound with two chains. Then he began asking who the man was and what he had been doing. Some of the crowd shouted one thing and some another. Since he could not be certain of the facts because of the shouting that was going on, he ordered Paul to be brought to the barracks. By the time they got to the steps, Paul had to be carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the mob. The crowd kept shouting furiously, “Away with him!”
As they were about to enter the barracks Paul asked the commander, “May I say something to you?”
“What? Do you know Greek?” the tribune asked. “Aren’t you that Egyptian who recently stirred up a revolt along with those four thousand assassins who escaped into the desert?”
“I am a Jew,” replied Paul. “I am a man of Tarsus, a citizen of no insignificant city, I might add. I’d like a chance to address this crowd.”
On being given permission Paul stood on the steps and made a gesture with his hand to the people. The crowd quieted as he began, “My brothers and my fathers, listen to what I have to say in my own defense.”
When they heard him addressing them in Hebrew, a profound silence came over the place.
“I myself am a Jew,” Paul told them. “I was born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but I was brought up here in Jerusalem, having received my training at the feet of Gamaliel and being educated in the strictest observance of our fathers’ Law. I was as much on fire with zeal for God as you all are today. You may not know it but I am also the man who persecuted The Way vigorously, arresting both men and women, throwing them into prison, and killing many, as the High Priest and the whole council can readily testify. Indeed, it was after receiving letters from them that I was on my way to the synagogue in Damascus. I intended to arrest any followers of The Way I could find there to bring them back to Jerusalem for punishment.
“Then this happened to me: As I neared Damascus, about midday, a great light from Heaven suddenly blazed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ I replied, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ He said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth Whom you are persecuting.’ Those traveling with me also saw the light but they did not hear the voice of the One who was talking to me.
‘What do You want me to do, Lord?’ I asked. The Lord told me, ‘Get up and go to Damascus. There you will be told of all that has been determined for you to do.’ The bright light had blinded me, so my companions had to lead me by the hand into Damascus.
“A man by the name of Ananias, a devout observer of the Law and one highly respected by all the Jews who lived there, came to visit me. He stood by my side and said, ‘Saul, brother, receive your sight!’ And just like that, I looked and saw him. He went on to explain, ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you to know His will, to see the Righteous One, to hear words from His own lips. He wants you to become His witness before all men of what you have seen and heard. There’s no time to waste! Get up and be baptized! Let your sins be washed away as you call on His name.’
“Then it happened that when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the Temple, I fell into a trance and saw Him, and He said to me, ‘Quickly! Leave Jerusalem at once because they will not accept your testimony about Me.’ ‘But Lord,’ I said, ‘they know that I have gone from one synagogue after another imprisoning and beating any who believe in You. And they know that when the blood of Your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval, even guarding the outer garments of those who killed him.’ But He said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”
They had listened intently to him until he said this, but now they raised their voices shouting, “Kill him, and rid the earth of such a man! He is not fit to live!”
As they were yelling and ripping their clothes and hurling dust into the air, the commander gave orders to bring Paul into the barracks and directed that he should be examined by scourging, so that he might discover the reason for such an uproar against him. But when they had strapped him up, Paul spoke to the centurion standing by, “Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen before he has had a trial?”
Troubled at hearing this, the centurion went in to the commander and reported, saying, “Do you realize what you were about to do? This man is a Roman citizen!”
Then the commander himself came up to Paul, and asked, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?”
And he said, “Yes.”
“I had to pay a lot of money to get my citizenship,” said the commander.
“Well, I was born a citizen,” Paul replied.
Fear rippled through those who were about to examine him and they left quickly. The commander was especially alarmed when he realized that he had put a Roman citizen in chains.