The earliest Christians followed a Jewish tradition of pausing to pray, preferably together, first thing in the morning, about mid morning, at noon, about mid afternoon, and in the evening. “Just a Note” posts are brief observations made from Scripture readings not related to a lectionary. If I have one to post, it normally appears about 9:00 in the morning, at “the hour of prayer.”
Acts 21:27-36 gives us an excellent example of what happens when people start screaming regardless of evidence. The apostle Paul had paid for the expenses of some people’s vow before God. He had participated in it as well. He was later recognized by a number of people who were convinced that Paul was opposed to Moses and the Jewish life. They had seen him with a Greek in Jerusalem several days before. So they accusation went around that Paul had defiled the temple by bringing a Greek into the place set apart for Jews.
There was no substance to this charge. It was patently false. However, in response to the claim, there was a great disturbance in the city. It was serious enough that the civic officials, Romans, intervened and arrested Paul. He was chained as someone who might be a violent criminal. He was certainly at the center of a violent protest. Yet the officials couldn’t identify the actual charge against Paul. People were too busy screaming to speak sensibly.
Sadly, I have seen this rhetorical plan in action in the past few years. It seems to be more and more common. People have a complaint against someone. They stir up emotions and everyone starts screaming and breaking things. One thing leads to another and eventually a few people are in jail, the crowd disperses, and nothing is resolved.
Our passage ends with no definitive resolution. The civil authorities have not even identified Paul or understood the charge against him. But their intervention is important. We read in Romans 13, the words of Paul as well, that civil authorities are God’s servants for peace and order. When they do their job, they protect free people from harm. They are not moved by the mob. They seek the actual information. In Acts 21, this was necessary to preserve the life of the apostle Paul and enable him to go on with his plan to reach Rome. We complain about government frequently. It wouldn’t hurt to pray for those who goven us as well.
If this brief meditation was helpful to you, I hope you will check out the other materials on our website at www.WittenbergCoMo.com and consider supporting us.