Get Rid of Him
27 When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, 28 shouting, “Fellow Israelites, help us! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place.” 29 (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple.)
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. 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, “Get rid of him!”
Paul had returned to Jerusalem knowing that things would not go well for him. There were religious officials who were jealous of his ministry and popularity and were determined to find anything they could to hold against him. While Paul did absolutely nothing wrong, they decided to spread rumors about him anyway. Paul had become friends and ministered to a Greek from the city of Ephesus and they simply assumed that Paul would have brought him into the temple. While Paul didn’t, their vicious personal attacks were enough to get everyone stirred up. The crowd, fed by the rumors, got all stirred up. People were angry at Paul and were determined to "get rid of him."
In hindsight we wonder how the people could have thought this about Paul. He was a good man who was seeking their best interest. He wanted them to know Jesus.
But that was the problem. Knowing Jesus meant disrupting the religious systems of the day. Specifically it meant that those in power would need to submit to the authority of Jesus and they simply were not willing to do that. Power often trumps the day and leads to selfish decisions.
How can we avoid being swept into the crowd and shouting, “Get rid of him?”
We need to join with those who would not listen to the rumors and stood firm, asking questions and seeking the truth. Seeking the truth means spending time in prayer with Jesus, “the way, the truth, and the life.” While in prayer we need to ask the Lord to examine our hearts and our motivations. We should always ask whether our actions or reactions have anything to do with a desire for power or control. I think it’s a natural reaction to want to control a situation when things feel out of control.
People were afraid of the consequences of following Jesus. What would becoming a believer do to the already existing systems? Life was crazy enough with the Roman rulers, let alone having their worship systems disrupted. Therefore it was easy to stir up the crowds because they were afraid. It was more comfortable to support the existing systems than to move into an unknown future by following Jesus.
In the midst of the fear there had to be a scapegoat; someone to blame for their problems. Why not Paul? If only Paul were not around they could go back to business as usual! Paul simply wanted them to know Jesus in a deeply intimate way. But getting intimate with Jesus is sometimes frightening. We are scared of what he may discover in us and so we stir up the crowd; we get upset; and we find the one on whom we can blame our woes. Let’s just “get rid of him!”
Lord, please help me to know you and to seek you and your truth. Amen.