Scripture: Acts 21:27-36
Key verse: (36) The crowd that followed kept shouting, “Away with him!”
Reflection: Sometimes faithful proclamation ruffles feathers. Sometimes faithful behavior makes people angry or defensive. Faithfulness isn’t synonymous with always making other people feel good. If Jesus had always made people happy and comfortable, they wouldn’t have crucified him. And if Paul had kept quiet about the good news of Jesus Christ when he visited the temple, soldiers wouldn’t have arrested him.
Finley Peter Dunne, American writer and humorist, wrote “Stories are meant to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.” That phrase has become a guide for many faithful people and it certainly seems to fit the life and teaching of Jesus. Of course we might not always be able to identify who is afflicted and who is comfortable, or those labels might vary depending on the circumstance and context.
In today’s passage Paul was in the city of Jerusalem and visited the temple. Paul was a faithful man who maintained his regular worship in the temple. He didn’t understand his faith in Jesus Christ to be a departure from his Judaism but instead was a fulfillment of it. The crowd in the temple accused Paul of bringing Gentiles into the temple, defying their understanding of purity and fidelity to God’s law. With a bit of exaggeration, the writer tells us “all the city was aroused and the people rushed together.” Paul was attacked and eventually arrested. As the soldiers carried him away, people in the crowd shouted “Away with him!”
Those were the words shouted to Pilate when he met with the chief priests, the leaders and the people to tell them he found Jesus innocent of their charges. “Away with this fellow!” (Luke 23:18)
To be honest, I would like to shout “Away with this one!” about a few people (that list is top secret and I don’t share it). I need to slow down and check myself. Perhaps what’s really happening is that I am being challenged to be more faithful. Perhaps I am being given an opportunity to learn and grow. Perhaps I am being held accountable for my discipleship. Perhaps what’s really happening is that I am being afflicted when I would prefer comfort.
Prayer: Dear Lord, when I rush to push someone away or to silence a challenging voice, help me to slow down and listen. Give me a discerning spirit. Open my heart to the discomfort that comes with the journey of faithfulness to follow Jesus Christ. Amen.
Author: Millie Snyder
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].