Acts 21: 1 – 16 On to Jerusalem
After we had torn ourselves away from them, we put out to sea and sailed straight to Kos. The next day we went to Rhodes and from there to Patara. We found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, went on board and set sail. After sighting Cyprus and passing to the south of it, we sailed on to Syria. We landed at Tyre, where our ship was to unload its cargo. We sought out the disciples there and stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go to Jerusalem. When it was time to leave, we left and continued on our way. All of them, including wives and children, accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray. After saying goodbye to each other, we went aboard the ship, and they returned home.
We continued our voyage from Tyre and landed at Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and sisters and stayed with them for a day. Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.
After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, ‘The Holy Spirit says, “In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles”’
When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, ‘Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’ When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, ‘The Lord’s will be done.’
After this, we started on our way up to Jerusalem. Some of the disciples from Caesarea accompanied us and brought us to the house of Mnason, where we were to stay. He was a man from Cyprus and one of the early disciples.
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Paul was hastening to Jerusalem, hoping to be there in time for Pentecost. Winds were fair, and they reached Tyre swiftly. In Tyre they met the local church, and Luke writes, “Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go to Jerusalem.”
It was safe to be a follower of the Way in Tyre. When Paul decided he was going to ignore the warnings and press on to Jerusalem, the whole congregation went with him to the ship and held an impromptu prayer meeting on the beach.
The company sailed south along the coast until they came to Caesarea, where Agabus prophesied ‘The Holy Spirit says, “In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles”’
Another warning prophecy. It was safe in Caesarea. Philip the Evangelist, with his four daughters, had made his home there when he had been forced to flee after Stephen’s martyrdom. He was a prominent figure in the early church, having been one of the seven deacons in Jerusalem, and he’d had a successful ministry in Samaria.
Jerusalem was obviously going to be very dangerous for Paul, so why did he go there? Was he disobedient to the Spirit in Tyre? It looks at first sight as though was. However, that’s not necessarily the case. “Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go to Jerusalem,” could have been something like, ‘If you go to Jerusalem, then you will be arrested and handed over to the Gentiles.”Luke hasn’t written it as such, but, if it were, then Paul would be making a brave choice, knowing what lay in store for him.
And maybe that would be why there was a prophecy at all. God’s plan could have been to let the disciples know in a very immediate way the sacrifice that Paul was prepared to make for them and for the gospel.
It makes sense like that, but I’m going to be cautious about drawing conclusions. You see, in tomorrow’s passage we see what happened when Paul reached Jerusalem – and it has a bearing on the teaching handed down by the church even to the present day.
Thank you for the bible, and for all those who have taken your gospel to others. Please help me to understand better your great love for all mankind, and to draw closer to Jesus.
In Jesus’ name, Amen