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This Topsy Turvy World – Acts 17:5-10


This Topsy Turvy World 

Acts 17:1-9 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews

Paul and Silas and Timothy are at Thessalonica.  They have been to the Synagogue, three Sabbaths in a row, and they have been teaching from the Scriptures at Sabbath worship, and when Paul speaks he aways points to Christ, the Messiah, who died and rose again.  So effective was his reasoning, his explaining and demonstrating, so persuasive was his passion for the gospel, that some of the Jews were converted, a lot of the Gentile God-fearers who came to the Jewish services, and quite a few of the aristocratic women.   But no matter where Paul preaches, his message is divides people into two different groups.  The gospel is always thus, for it divides society down the middle, into the saved and the lost, the only two types of people that there are. Jesus warned about this.  Matthew 10:34   In Thessalonica the divide is not only obvious, but it is violent.

Image by Kranich17 from Pixabay

1 Mob Rule in Thessalonica5-6

Let’s look at some of the people in this part of the narrative…

  • The Jews.  But the Jews who were not persuaded, becoming envious.  The Jews were enraged by Paul’s success in evangelism.  How would we feel if we invited someone to speak at a meeting and they used the opportunity to split our assembly? So, we might have some sympathy for these Jews, except that in their case, Paul makes it clear that they had no right to complain, for they themselves had been given every opportunity by God to walk in his ways, repent of their sins and be faithful to him. 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16  They were deliberate and consciously in opposition to God.
  • The Gougers! took some of the evil men from the marketplace, and gathering a mob, set all the city in an uproar.  There are always people like that in town centres.  They are looking for a fight, and it’s not too hard to get them stirred up and very soon a rabble is roused and ready to fight.  So the Jews cause an uproar.  Notice carefully that it is not the gospel preachers who cause this noisy riot, it is those who oppose the gospel.  They go around looking for Paul and Silas
  • The Converts. and attacked the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. 6 But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city,  Now it seems that Paul, Silas and Timothy were lodging at the house of a man called Jason.  When the mob attacked his house, Jason was there, along with some other ‘brethren.’  So, first of all lets ask:
    • Who was Jason? We know little about him, except that he lived in Thessalonica and was a convert to Christianity.  He is mentioned in Romans 16:21 Paul refers to Jason as one of his countrymen, and since Paul was from Tarsus, perhaps that’s where Jason was from as well, or perhaps just a fellow Jew.  
    • Where was Paul?  When the mob gained entrance to Jason’s house, and dragged him and some other Christians out of the building, they didn’t end Paul, or Silas or Timothy. 

So, Jason is frog-marched to the court, where he is to be charged with insurrection, even though it was he who is the victim of unprovoked violence!

2 The Topsy Turvy World.  V6-8crying out, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too. 7 Jason has harboured them, and these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king—Jesus.” Let’s see what Jason and his brethren were charged with.  Jason and the others were accused of receiving and harbouring – giving them shelter, providing for their wellbeing and promoting their interests.  The court and the rulers and the people have heard the character of these men being torn to shreds before them. But see the nature of the charges against Paul…. 

  • Overturning the established order of things.  “These who have turned the world upside down. Riots followed the gospel preaching everywhere, but it wasn’t the missionaries that started them, it was the angry sinners who rejected the gospel message, most notably the Jews. Yet in another sense it is an interesting accusation for the gospel turns everything on its head.  It is the natural world that is upside down.  The effect of true conversion is to turn all those ideologies on their heads.  And the most radical overturn of all is the bringing of the sinner from death to life.   Romans 5:15  
  • Sedition.  Acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar.  This was a serious charge, that could lead to serious forms of punishment, to be an enemy of the state.   There is an accusation that is more specific…
  • Saying that there is another King.   saying there is another king—Jesus. To say that Jesus is King, is to put him first, whatever the cost, for we are to ‘seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.’

So you can see how the world looks at Christians – people who stand the values and principles of the established order on their head.  In fact Jesus has turned everything in this world the right way up, restoring the brokenness of the fall.

3 Wise Decisions.   8 And they troubled the crowd and the rulers of the city when they heard these things.  9 So when they had taken security from Jason and the rest, they let them go. 10 Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea.

The city fathers in Thessalonica acted in a more temperate manner than those at Philippi, fearful perhaps of coming to the attention of the authorities in Rome, and perhaps of Caesar himself.   Perhaps that’s why Luke records that the city and its governors were troubled.  Paul and the missionary group had clearly done no wrong, unless talking and reasoning is a crime!  It was a fine line – To be seen to do something, rather than let the situation develop further, they released Jason and the others on bail – a bit like our modern magistrates court would do, when they would find someone guilty, and then bind them over, on their own cognisance, to keep the peace.  They set a bail figure and told them all to go away and behave themselves!  

Paul and Silas responded to this decision by deciding to leave the new church there, to grow and develop, while they moved on.  Simple common sense might suggest that there is a time to withdraw, for the benefit of others.   We next find them in Berea.

© BobMcEvoy February 2021

From → Acts

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