Acts 17: 1 – 9 In Thessalonica
When Paul and his companions had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. ‘This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,’ he said. Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women.
But other Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the market-place, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other believers before the city officials, shouting: ‘These men, who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.’ When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil. Then they put Jason and the others on bail and let them go.
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Both support and opposition came from the Jews. Luke writes as though there was some support from the Jews – “Some of the Jews were persuaded,” – but considerable opposition – “But other Jews were jealous”. There was more support from God-fearing Greeks, and a large number joined Paul and Silas. Luke feels it is important to mention that “quite a few prominent women” joined Paul and Silas; it’s important to remember that women played an active role in the faith throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry. Here, Luke is emphasising once more that women were important in the early church.
“But other Jews were jealous”. What was the cause of the jealousy? Luke tells us that “Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women.” It had been clear for several years that Christianity was becoming separate from Judaism. These influential people, who had discarded paganism in favour of Judaism, were moving away and joining the new religion – and no doubt all their energy and their material contributions went with them. Judaism was losing power, influence and cash.
The jealous Jews were unscrupulous in their tactics. Luke says “so they rounded up some bad characters from the market-place, formed a mob and started a riot in the city”. This puts the Jews of Thessalonica in a very poor light. Christianity was meeting political, as well as religious, opposition.
Those instigating the disorder knew where to find Paul; at Jason’s house. By God’s providence Paul wasn’t there; perhaps word reached him from a supporter. Not to be denied, the crowd seized Jason and some others and dragged them before city officials. What was the accusation? Jason has allowed his house to be used by men “who have caused trouble all over the world” And then, very tellingly, “They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.”
What an echo! “We have no king but Caesar!” (John 19: 16) said the chief priests as they put pressure on Pilate to have Jesus crucified.
Truly, we must be very careful that we speak only the good news of Jesus, and don’t become trapped by the political system!
Thank you for sending Jesus as our king. Please help us to truly acknowledge him as Lord, to listen to his voice, and to do his will.
In Jesus’ name, Amen