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What Are My Resources?
“But just when the seven days were about to come to an end, some Jews
from the province of Asia saw Paul in the Temple. They stirred up the whole
crowd and grabbed Paul.  ‘People of Israel!’ they shouted. ‘Help! This
is the man who goes everywhere teaching everyone against the people of
Israel, the Law of Moses, and this Temple. And now he has even brought
some Gentiles into the Temple and defiled this holy place!’  (They
said this because they had seen Trophimus from Ephesus with Paul in the
city, and they thought that Paul had taken him into the Temple.)  Confusion
spread through the whole city, and the people all ran together, grabbed
Paul, and dragged him out of the Temple. At once the Temple doors were
closed.  The mob was trying to kill Paul, when a report was sent up
to the commander of the Roman troops that all of Jerusalem was rioting.
 At once the commander took some officers and soldiers and rushed down
to the crowd. When the people saw him with the soldiers, they stopped beating
Paul.  The commander went over to Paul, arrested him, and ordered him
to be bound with two chains. Then he asked, ‘Who is this man, and what
has he done?’  Some in the crowd shouted one thing, others something
else. There was such confusion that the commander could not find out exactly
what had happened, so he ordered his men to take Paul up into the fort.
 They got as far as the steps with him, and then the soldiers had to
carry him because the mob was so wild.  They were all coming after
him and screaming, ‘Kill him!’ (TEV)
I don’t know if we like any of the new television shows or not
because if we’re not watching baseball or bull riding, we’re watching a
rerun of Andy Griffith, Coach or MacGiver. Without question, Susan’s
favorite is MacGiver. The show originally aired from 1985-92, but
it will undoubtedly live forever in syndication. Richard Dean Anderson
plays Angus MacGyver. The fascinating thing about MacGiver, is his
uncanny ability to solve any problem or avert oncoming disaster with common,
ordinary objects like paperclips, gum wrappers, rubber hoses, a Swiss army
knife or my personal favor, duct tape. Whenever he was faced with
a problem or dangerous situation, he’d start looking around his surroundings
and find exactly what he needed to get out of the bind. He faced
every crisis by asking, “What are my resources?”
Not a bad question to ask.
A question the Apostle Paul asked too. The biblical record
shows this innovative church planter/evangelist using everything at his
disposal to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. In this text, Paul
was following the Disciple’s advice and going to the temple to purify himself
when it turned ugly. Instead of being impressed that Paul, a missionary
to the Gentiles, was still keeping the law, the Jews incited a riot among
the worshippers saying, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches
everyone everywhere against our people, our law, and this place. What’s
more, he also brought Greeks into the temple and has profaned this holy
place.” (Acts 21:28 HCSB) The crowd quickly became a mob. Paul
was going to need more than a Swiss army knife and duct tape to get out
of this bind—these religious people were so enraged, they were ready to
kill him. When the commander of the Roman cohort heard about the
ruckus, he dispatched soldiers to intervene.
When they arrived, the mob stopped beating Paul. The commander
ordered his soldiers to put Paul in chains and carried him away from there.
As they took him from the temple, the crowds cried out “Away with him.”
In the barracks, Paul asked his captors if he could speak, and
when he did so, he spoke in Greek, the language of the Roman Empire, leading
the commander to ask these questions: “’Do you know Greek?  Aren’t
you the Egyptian who raised a rebellion some time ago and led 4,000 Assassins
into the desert?’” Paul replied, “’I am a Jewish man from Tarsus of Cilicia,
a citizen of an important city. Now I ask you, let me speak to the people.’”
(Acts 21:37b-39 HCSB)
Why would Paul ask to speak to the people? He was safe where
he was now, why would he want to address this angry mob before they had
a chance to cool down? If his only goal was to find a safe harbor,
he would have thanked the commander for his intervention, produced the
credentials necessary to clear his name and move on. But that wasn’t
his goal. Paul was willing to go through whatever he had to and use
whatever means he had at his disposal to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Being in a bind wasn’t a problem for Paul. He had already been warned
by the Holy Spirit that his trip to Jerusalem would end in his captivity.
Pain and suffering was a given for Paul—he was willing to do more than
suffer, he was willing to die for his beliefs.
So instead of scampering to safety, Paul asked to speak to the
very people that were trying to kill him so he could tell them about the
life changing power of Jesus Christ. This is exactly what he did.
Chapter 22 is one of two places that Paul tells his conversion
story in the book of Acts. The other is chapter 26 when Paul made
his defense before Agrippa. In this instance, he began by reminding
the crowd that he is as much a Jew, if not more so than they were.
He talked about his life before encountering Christ on the road to Damascus.
If they had any memories at all, they would have remembered how zealous
Saul was and how committed he was to the Jewish faith.
Paul told them about his encounter with the Risen Lord on his
way to persecute Christians and His Church. Paul described how that
divine appointment made him rethink his position and how it helped him
realize a need for Christ.
Paul told the crowd how he came to believe in Jesus. The
light from heaven shone brightly and brought Paul to his knees. From
within the light, a voice said, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
(Acts 22:7 NASB) In the conversation that followed, the voice identified
itself as Jesus of Nazareth and told Saul to continue to Damascus and he’d
receive further instructions. Because the light was so bright, Saul
was blinded and had to be led by hand into the city.
Paul explained that Ananias, a devout Jew welcomed him, miraculously
gave him back his sight along with further instructions, including a command
to be baptized. Paul told the crowd that he followed those instructions
and that his life was forever changed.
The Apostle Paul did not try to save his own skin, instead, he
seized the opportunity to give this crowd the gospel message. His
approach was very simple. If you take the time to put an outline to his
presentation you will see that it included four elements:
Tonight, Cory Campbell will give us further instruction on how
to share our faith with others, but let me suggest that simply telling
your story, like Paul did, is one approach you can take.
So how did the crowd respond? Well, not so well. They
cried for his blood. The commander responded by ordering Paul to
be scourged. As they were preparing for the beating, Paul, once again
used what was at his disposal to proclaim the gospel. Look at verse
25. “And when they stretched him out with thongs, Paul said to the
centurion who was standing by, ‘Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who
is a Roman and uncondemned?’” (Acts 22:25 NASB)
Paul found that his chains gave him a unique witnessing opportunity.
Because he asked this question and because he would later appeal to Rome,
Paul was able to proclaim the gospel to councils, rulers and kings.
We don’t have a definitive word on what ultimately happened to
Paul. The bible and outside historical sources, other than church
tradition are silent. Tradition says he was beheaded during the reign
of Nero. While I can’t say that with any degree of certainty, I do
know that Paul was willing to die for his faith, and I’m not surprised
that he might have.
When you ask the question, “What are my resources?” Are
you asking that question to figure out how to get out of a bind, or how
to proclaim the gospel in the midst of your predicament?