After years of missionary labors around the eastern Mediterranean, Paul longed to visit Jerusalem again. When he arrived, he and his fellow believers in Jerusalem enjoyed a heartfelt reunion. They rejoiced at Paul’s witness to Jesus among Gentiles and Jews in other cities and regions. They also rejoiced at the many Jews in and around Jerusalem who had come to faith in Jesus.
Yet this was not Paul’s vacation. Well known for preaching and teaching about Jesus among Gentiles and Jews alike, he could not go in public in Jerusalem without being recognized. Moreover, Paul did not know how to take a vacation from Jesus, from telling anyone anywhere about the good news.
So Paul was recognized at the temple by some who opposed him. They agitated against him. An intense disturbance, involving a large crowd, developed. The Roman military authority arrested him to quell the riot and determine what to do with him. The Roman commander also ordered the Jewish religious court – the Sanhedrin – to convene to question and intimidate Paul.
Assaulted, arrested, investigated, and nearly flogged, Paul knew only how to tell the truth, whatever might befall him. As he had told people in public for years, so in the confines of formal proceedings against him, he told the political and religious authorities of his hope in Jesus.
Hope in Jesus, publicly lived and expressed, may result in assault, arrest, investigation, torture, and even death in some parts of the world. They are not likely results in our part of the world. Generally, embarrassment and the appearance of seeming foolish, backward, narrow, or ignorant may result if we publicly live and express our hope in Jesus. This can still be daunting to us, given our culture’s devotion to image-consciousness, and to a sacrosanct divide between the public and the private. And, if we were to publicly live and express our hope in Jesus faithfully and radically enough, worse than embarrassment and foolishness may come our way, even here. This truly would be daunting! Yet in all, the Lord says, “Take courage.” For he loves, embraces, and sustains us – all the while pushing us out into the world to live in hope and tell others about it.