Acts Devotionals

Away With Him

To the Jews, the temple was exceptionally sacred because it was the dwelling place of God amongst His people. He resided in the Holy of Holies. Only the high priest could enter there once a year with blood to appease for his sin, that of his family as well as the Nation of Israel. The area known as the Holy Place was for the priests. Between these two was a thickly woven curtain that was torn top to bottom when Jesus died on the Cross, symbolizing that God from heaven (top of the curtain) tore it open so that man (bottom of curtain) may have direct access to God in heaven, without the need of a priest or high priest on earth as an intermediary. Jesus was the last prophet, priest and king and is now, King of kings and Lord of lords fulfilling the role of High Priest and fulfilling the role of intermediary in heaven before the Father. As we saw yesterday, the city was a buzz with fanatical Jews having being stirred up by the Asian Jews with fake information about Paul.

Ac 21:30 The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut.

Once they had arrested him (seizing), they manhandled him ruthlessly (dragged), as once would an awful criminal, removing him from the temple. Although now in the New Covenant written in the Blood of Jesus, the temple was still standing (until 70 AD when the Romans demolished it) and the temple hierarchy, still living under the Old Covenant closed shop … immediately the gates were shut. As soon as Paul had been dragged past the gates, which were two folding doors, they were shut like a prison’s door being securely locked to prevent damage inside the temple courts as well as preventing access. Please read:

Ac 21:31 While they were trying to kill him, news reached the commander of the Roman troops that the whole city of Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32 He at once took some officers and soldiers and ran down to the crowd. When the rioters saw the commander and his soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. 33 The commander came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains. Then he asked who he was and what he had done. 34 Some in the crowd shouted one thing and some another, and since the commander could not get at the truth because of the uproar, he ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. 35 When Paul reached the steps, the violence of the mob was so great he had to be carried by the soldiers. 36 The crowd that followed kept shouting, “Away with him!”

1) The intent of these Asian Jews.

Ac 21:31 While they were trying to kill him.

The word Luke uses … “kill” is interesting. It could mean “to kill in any way possible to get the person out of the way”; “to destroy as in perish” or “to extinguish by inflicting mortal death.” There is another meaning … “to deprive one of spiritual life and procure eternal misery for the person.” Their furious anger was at such a height that total extermination was in mind … and perhaps in their own spiritual lost-ness, they thought they would be depriving Paul of any chance salvation because he, according to them, desecrated the holy place (temple) and deserved eternal damnation. Interestingly, Luke did not use the word “murder”, perhaps because in his mind, the intent of the moment was to exterminate Paul’s life in such a manner that he, in their opinion would never be able to seek spiritual pardon and salvation.

As Christians we are also prone to “lose it” from time to time and in anger would want to exterminate someone from the face of the earth. Each country has their stories to tell about people losing it and in anger take weapons and murder / kill one or more people. Where we live, the local free online newspaper ranks such events just under the present political environment and stories about the British royalty and Harry and Megan. For us who believe in Jesus, knowing what He went through so that we might live eternally, we have no right to have anger in our hearts towards another person. Even though one does the most horrendous crimes, would we want that person to escape the possibility of forgiveness from God? Would we want any soul in hell? Let’s turn the wheel … would we have been happy for God not to pardon us and damn us to eternal death? Be extremely careful of anger. Offload it through confession of sin and appropriate pardon.

2) The most unlikely rescue.

Ac 21:31 While they were trying to kill him, news reached the commander of the Roman troops that the whole city of Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32 He at once took some officers and soldiers and ran down to the crowd. When the rioters saw the commander and his soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.

The Roman Garrison had been rebuilt by Herod the Great and renamed the “Antonia Fortress” in honor of Mark Anthony. It was northwest of the temple, connected to the outer court by two flights of steps. The paper strength of the garrison was 1000 men … 760 foot-soldiers and 240 cavalry.

As mentioned previously, the Roman authorities tended to be more sympathetic to the leadership of Judaism and as soon as the riot started, the commander, hearing the noise, took some of his officers and troops and ran down the two flights of steps stopping the mob from fulfilling their desire to ‘kill’ Paul. The immediate reality to the commander was that Paul was a criminal and needed to be arrested and dealt with, but this needed to follow the legal process laid out by Rome. He rescued Paul from the mob for a proper investigation as to the riot. Being “bound with two chains” refers to their method of putting handcuffs on a person.

Even though the commander asked Paul for his name and what he was alleged to have done, the mob went berserk! To prevent Paul giving an answer, the mob screamed anything that came into their minds, as loud as possible so that the commander being unable to reach a satisfactory understanding of the purpose for the riot, took Paul to the barracks where it would be quieter. It seems as though the mob were so wild in their condemnation of Paul, they even filled the steps up to the barracks to the point where the soldiers needed to carry Paul.

What is quiet horrendous is the mob shouting … “Away with him!” Amongst the meanings of the word “away” used here, is “to raise from the ground” and “to take away from the living by violence”. It almost sounds as though they wanted Paul crucified as Jesus was. It is interesting as we back up a bit and observe the great Gospel strides that had been made in Jerusalem … but more in the Gentile world. Although by the will of God … satan stood behind Jesus’ crucifixion. Did it stop God’s rescue plan? No! Under the auspices they martyred Stephen. Did it stop the Gospel? Although they did not succeed in killing Paul, if they did, would it have stopped the Gospel? No … because the Gospel is bigger than man and satan. As long as it is in one’s heart it will be made known.

Father in Heaven, the Owner and Protector of the Church of God, bought by the Blood of Jesus, thank You for the protection and security You provide to keep the Gospel doing its work until Jesus returns. Amen.

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