Cloaks flying, dust flinging . . .What is Going on?
Oh dear Paul. He is always in some sort of ruckus. He finally made it to Jerusalem, but not without considerable fallout.
In Chapter 22 of the Acts of the Apostles, Paul was defending himself to the Jews in Jerusalem. They listened to him but then started shouting, “Take such a one as this away from the earth. It is not right that he should live.”
As if that wasn’t enough, listen to how Luke describes the situation and the rising tension:
“And as they were yelling and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, the cohort commander ordered him to be brought into the compound and gave instruction that he be interrogated under the lash . . .”
Can’t you just see it? Cloaks flying, dust flinging, cries for him to be killed?
After traveling all over the place by land and sea (aboard a cargo ship, not a cruise liner), after being arrested and about to be whipped, in the midst of this huge kerfuffle, Paul continued to be attacked—all for preaching the gospel!
Earlier in Chapter 21, we hear “The whole city was in turmoil with people rushing together.” Having seized Paul and having him dragged out of the temple, “all Jerusalem was rioting.”
What was the problem here?
Well, the cohort commander who had him arrested couldn’t exactly figure out what was going on. “Some in the mob shouted one thing, others something else; so, since he was unable to ascertain the truth because of the uproar, he ordered Paul to be brought into the compound” where he was carried by soldiers “because of the violence of the mob.”
As a side note, I just want to mention that part of the problem was that Paul was a Roman citizen and they weren’t supposed to be doing anything to him because of that.
But here’s what I want you to see—nobody withstands all of this without real conviction. Paul was so “in” after his conversion on the way to Damascus, that he was willing to endure whatever he had to in order to continue spreading the word about Jesus.
How convinced are YOU that Jesus is God?
That he came from the Father?
That he took on humanity to save us?
In today’s reading from the Gospel of John, Jesus said in his prayer to the Father that he gives us the glory that the Father gave him. That is so amazing!
And, he prayed for us. He came, for us. And not only us, but, also, as he said, “for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one.”
So important was all of this to Paul that he willingly stepped into the fray wherever it found him, to testify, to give his witness story about all that God did for him.
Instead of “binding both men and women and delivering them to prison” for following the “Way,” bringing others “back to Jerusalem in chains for punishment, Paul himself was now returning to Jerusalem, a changed man, defending God in battle, if you will.
Spreading the Good News of salvation is clearly not for the faint of heart. I pray that each of us—today—opens our heart and willingly speaks of all that God has done for us.
Don’t worry that you will not have the right words. God will provide what you need.