Reflection materials excerpted from the Chinese edition of the New Testament with Lectio Divina (by Claretian Publications), translated by Fountain of Love and Life
Acts of the Apostles
Arrival at Tyre.
1 When we had taken leave of them we set sail, made a straight run for Cos, and on the next day for Rhodes, and from there to Patara. 2 Finding a ship crossing to Phoenicia, we went on board and put out to sea. 3We caught sight of Cyprus but passed by it on our left and sailed on toward Syria and put in at Tyre where the ship was to unload cargo. 4 There we sought out the disciples and stayed for a week. They kept telling Paul through the Spirit not to embark for Jerusalem. 5At the end of our stay we left and resumed our journey. All of them, women and children included, escorted us out of the city, and after kneeling on the beach to pray, 6we bade farewell to one another. Then we boarded the ship, and they returned home.
Arrival at Ptolemais and Caesarea.
7 We continued the voyage and came from Tyre to Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and stayed a day with them. 8 On the next day we resumed the trip and came to Caesarea, where we went to the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the Seven, and stayed with him.a 9He had four virgin daughters gifted with prophecy. 10 We had been there several days when a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11b He came up to us, took Paul’s belt, bound his own feet and hands with it, and said, “Thus says the holy Spirit: This is the way the Jews will bind the owner of this belt in Jerusalem, and they will hand him over to the Gentiles.” 12 When we heard this, we and the local residents begged him not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul replied, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? I am prepared not only to be bound but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” 14 Since he would not be dissuaded we let the matter rest, saying,d “The Lord’s will be done.”
Paul and James in Jerusalem.
15 After these days we made preparations for our journey, then went up to Jerusalem. 16 Some of the disciples from Caesarea came along to lead us to the house of Mnason, a Cypriot, a disciple of long standing, with whom we were to stay. 17 When we reached Jerusalem the brothers welcomed us warmly. 18 The next day, Paul accompanied us on a visit to James, and all the presbyters were present. 19He greeted them, then proceeded to tell them in detail what God had accomplished among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20 They praised God when they heard it but said to him, “Brother, you see how many thousands of believers there are from among the Jews, and they are all zealous observers of the law. 21 They have been informed that you are teaching all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to abandon Moses and that you are telling them not to circumcise their children or to observe their customary practices. 22 What is to be done? They will surely hear that you have arrived. 23 So do what we tell you. We have four men who have taken a vow.e 24Take these men and purify yourself with them, and pay their expenses that they may have their heads shaved. In this way everyone will know that there is nothing to the reports they have been given about you but that you yourself live in observance of the law. 25 As for the Gentiles who have come to believe, we sent them our decision that they abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage.” 26 So Paul took the men, and on the next day after purifying himself together with them entered the temple to give notice of the day when the purification would be completed and the offering made for each of them.
27 When the seven days were nearly completed, the Jews from the province of Asia noticed him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd, and laid hands on him, 28h shouting, “Fellow Israelites, help us. This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against the people and the law and this place, and what is more, he has even brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this sacred place.” 29 For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with him and supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple. 30 The whole city was in turmoil with people rushing together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and immediately the gates were closed. 31 While they were trying to kill him, a report reached the cohort commander that all Jerusalem was rioting. 32 He immediately took soldiers and centurions and charged down on them. When they saw the commander and the soldiers they stopped beating Paul. 33The cohort commander came forward, arrested him, and ordered him to be secured with two chains; he tried to find out who he might be and what he had done. 34 Some in the mob shouted one thing, others something else; so, since he was unable to ascertain the truth because of the uproar, he ordered Paul to be brought into the compound. 35 When he reached the steps, he was carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the mob, 36 i for a crowd of people followed and shouted, “Away with him!”
37 Just as Paul was about to be taken into the compound, he said to the cohort commander, “May I say something to you?” He replied, “Do you speak Greek? 38 So then you are not the Egyptian* who started a revolt some time ago and led the four thousand assassins into the desert?” 39 Paul answered, “I am a Jew, of Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city; I request you to permit me to speak to the people.” 40 When he had given his permission, Paul stood on the steps and motioned with his hand to the people; and when all was quiet he addressed them in Hebrew.
Teaching from Fr. Francis Ching (Traditional and Simplified Chinese subtitles are available):
Read Acts 21:21. What rumors about Paul had reached Jerusalem ahead of him? From the perspective of Acts, who was exempt from circumcision and other rituals of the Torah? What did the Council of Florence in 1442 have to say about these rituals? (Hint: read bullet D3 of session outline.)
Read Acts 21:4. Have you heard stories about the Spirit directing a person to do or to avoid doing something, or have you experienced such direction yourself? How does one discern the validity of such directions? If the direction in Acts 21:4 was genuinely from God, why would Paul decide to ignore it?
Paul’s Arrest upon his return to Jerusalem
- Despite of the multiple revelations by the Holy Spirit that Paul will be imprisoned and persecuted in Jerusalem and the crowd’s attempt to stop him, he is determined to offer his life to spreading the Good News and proceeds to Jerusalem in peace. Knowing that his path is filled with danger, Paul persists in his mission. Life loses its value without Jesus because “living is Christ and dying is gain”.
- When Peter left Jerusalem, James became the leader of the Church in Jerusalem. (Acts 12:17) Luke does not mention any of the other Apostles; perhaps they have already departed from Jerusalem to spread the Good News.
- The Council of Florence (1442): The early Church may follow the laws of Moses, including circumcision, but that cannot be interpreted as the requirement for salvation. According to Acts, Christians of Jewish descend can follow but the non-Jewish Christians are not required to do so.
Acts of the Apostles
Arrival at Tyre. / Arrival at Ptolemais and Caesarea. / Paul and James in Jerusalem. / Paul's Arrest.
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