Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jul 1 2013 - Acts 21:1-16 – Ready to face death

Paul and his companions (including Luke), are on their way to Jerusalem. Wherever they go they seek out Christians and spend time with them. There is a touching picture of the affection of the Christians in Tyre for Paul and those with him. They sensed through the Spirit that Paul would face dangers in Jerusalem and they urged him not to go on. But Paul was determined to continue. When it was time for them to set sail, Luke records, “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” (Acts 21:5-6).

From Tyre the party travelled on to Caesarea where they stayed in the house of Philip the evangelist. While there, a prophet named Agabus arrived from Judea to warn Paul that if he went on to Jerusalem he would be seized and handed over into Roman custody. This was not news for Paul; he had been told as much in many of the cities he had passed through (see 20:23). Paul cannot be dissuaded from going on to Jerusalem by these prophecies or by the pleas and tears of his friends. On the contrary, he declared himself not only willing to be taken captive but also to die for the name of the Lord Jesus (21:13).

For Paul, the journey to Jerusalem formed an important part of his mission. He was travelling with a number of representatives from various Gentile churches, carrying money they had collected for the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem. Paul seems to have hoped that this gift from the Gentiles might be seen as a demonstration that the days of the Messiah had arrived and would trigger the turning of many more Jews to acknowledge that Jesus is the Christ.

Paul was not concerned for his own welfare, but only for the furtherance of the Gospel. We have seen this many times in the account of his missionary activity. He has been willing to face beatings, stoning and imprisonment. He has worked with his own hands to support himself and others in his party while also ministering to the young churches and strengthening them in the Lord. He has devoted himself to a costly mission among the Gentiles but is equally concerned that his own fellow-countrymen might be saved. In all of this, Paul is both a model and a challenge for us.

I speak personally when I say that I find it very easy to get discouraged in Christian work and to lose heart when ministry seems only to bring trouble. Perhaps it was this that led to John Mark turning back from ministering alongside Paul. But Paul himself seems not to have allowed discouragements to turn him aside from his work. It was not duty that kept him going; he was compelled and propelled by an unshakeable vision of Christ and his glory. The vision that knocked him to the ground on the road to Damascus never departed from him. Only a year or so previously he had written to the Christians in Corinth saying: “Since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart… For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:1, 5-6).

Heavenly Father, by your Spirit, renew my vision of the glory of Christ and of your purpose to bring everything in all creation under his Lordship. May I be utterly captivated by him and wholly devoted to following him and to serving him and his kingdom purposes. May this be my governing priority and my great joy. 

Peter Misselbrook