James is concerned for Paul’s safety in Jerusalem. “I’m sure you know, my brother, that many thousands of Jews are now believers in Jesus as our Messiah, and with the holidays upon us, many of them will be here in Jerusalem. However, the majority of them are Pharisees, who still place great importance upon following the Law. And they have heard that you teach the Gentiles not to follow the Law, and teach the Jews who believe to forget about the Law, that circumcision is no longer necessary, and that they should abandon all their Jewish traditions. Now, I’m sure that when all of these believing Jews hear that you are in Jerusalem, they will come together and will wish to see you, and to hear from you. But most of all, they will be anxious to discover what your intentions are here. They will scrutinize you closely, watching to see if you do what they expect you to do. So, we must come up with a plan to keep you safe.”
Paul and his friends stay in Caesarea for quite a while, since they arrived so much earlier than they thought they would. But, too soon, it is time to continue on their way to Jerusalem. After packing and saying tearful goodbyes to their brothers and sisters in Caesarea, they set off. A few of the Caesarean brothers decide to come with them. Among them is a man named Mnason of Cyprus, one of the first in Caesarea to become a Christian. The group arrives in Jerusalem to a warm greeting from their brothers and sisters there. Tired from their trip, they retire early that evening, staying in the Jerusalem home of Mnason. The next morning, Paul visits with James and all the church elders. They are all eager to hear of his travels, and happy that he is there with them. Paul tells stories all day long of everything God has been doing through his ministry to the Gentiles. When he finishes telling of his adventures, the elders come together to praise God for His goodness.
Everyone present surrounds Paul and begs him not to continue on to Jerusalem. They’ve heard the warnings before, of course, but the dramatic presentation of Agabus’ warning has really brought it home for them. “Please, brother, stay here with us where you’ll be safe! The others can go on to Jerusalem, and we can send messages to and from our brothers and sisters there. Really, there’s no need for you to go in person. It’s far too dangerous for you!” But Paul shakes his head, saying, “Look at all of you, all worked up over this! You’re breaking my heart! Don’t you know that I have to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit? Even if there is danger, I still have to go. Besides, Jesus gave up His life for me, so how can I be unwilling to do the same for Him? For His sake, I would not only walk willingly into the hands of those who wish to capture me, I would give everything I have, including my life.” When they see that there is no changing Paul’s mind, everyone leaves him alone, saying, “God’s will be done.”
Paul and his friends arrive at the port of Ptolemais, where they are welcomed by another large group of believers. They stay there only one day this time, feeling compelled to continue on toward Jerusalem. The next day they board the ship again and sail on to Caesarea, arriving much more quickly than they anticipated. This is Paul’s third visit to Caesarea, and he is looking forward to seeing his friends there. Philip, one of the original apostles and now known as Philip the Evangelist, is living in Caesarea now, and Paul and his friends stay at Philip’s house while they are in Caesarea. Philip has four daughters, all unmarried virgins, and all of whom have the gift of prophecy. Another man with the gift of prophecy, named Agabus, hears that Paul is in town and travels from Judea to greet him. He is a bit dramatic in his presentation of prophecy, and when he reaches Paul, he runs up to him and takes Paul’s belt from him. He uses the belt to tie his own hands and feet together, declaring to all present in a loud voice, “The Holy Spirit has said that the owner of this belt will be tied up just like this by the Jews in Jerusalem, and he will be handed over to the Gentiles!”
Acts 21:7-11, http://www.middletownbiblechurch.org/ainacts/11-1.JPG
Paul, Luke, and the rest of the group bound for Jerusalem board the ship and continue on their journey. They stop along the way at the ports of Cos, Rhodes, and Patara to spend the nights on land. From there, they find a merchant ship headed for Phoenicia and purchase passage. The ship sails past Cyprus on the left, then moves on to Syria and makes berth at Tyre to unload its cargo. The group of Christians disembarks as well, and Paul asks around to see if there is a local church that they might visit. Finding a thriving group of believers, Paul leads his delegation to them, and they end up staying for a week so that they might enjoy Sunday worship together. A few of these believers at the church in Tyre have the gift of prophecy, and they receive messages of warning for Paul while the group is visiting there. They urge Paul not to go to Jerusalem, because the Holy Spirit has warned them of a plot to capture him while he is there. But Paul has heard these warnings many times. Everywhere he goes, it seems, someone receives a message of warning for him. At the same time, Paul feels confident that the Holy Spirit is leading him to Jerusalem. In his heart, he believes that these warnings are meant more to prepare him for the trials ahead than to make him change course. And so, after a seven day rest with the church of Tyre, Paul and his friends head back to the port to continue on their journey. The entire church goes with them, and they kneel on the sand of the shore together, praying for God’s blessing on their mission. Then they bid each other farewell, the Christians of Tyre returning to their homes, and Paul and his delegation boarding another ship.
Acts 21:1-6, http://blog.spu.edu/lectio/files/2013/05/week9-large.jpg
“And now, my brothers, I entrust you to God, that your lives may be governed by His word and His grace, because He alone is able to strengthen your faith and assure you of eternal life with Him in Heaven. Remember that I wherever I have ministered, I have always labored with my own hands to provide for myself, asking no one to give his own money to pay for my needs, or for the needs of anyone in my company. By doing this, I hope that I have been an example to you, that each person must do what he can to provide for himself, but we must always take care of those who are weak and unable to provide for themselves. Remember what Jesus taught, that it is better to give than to receive.” Paul finishes speaking to the Ephesian church elders, then gathers them in, kneels, and prays with them. Everyone is overcome by the knowledge that this could very well be the last time they will be together before they reunite in Heaven, and their tears mingle together as they embrace one another. They give each other the customary kiss on both cheeks before rising and walking back to the ship with Paul, where they bid him farewell.
“Because of the warnings of these prophets, who continually tell me that my death is drawing near, I wanted to speak to you face to face now, in case this is the last time we see each other in this life. So I would like to state publicly, and for you to testify with me if you agree, that I have not neglected any part of the ministry God’s Holy Spirit has called me to. I have held nothing back, and have done everything in my power to bring people to salvation. If anyone remains unconvinced that Jesus is our Messiah, the Son of God, and the only way we can be given eternal life in Heaven, it is not through any fault of my own. I gave to all the people the entire message of Jesus, as directed by the Holy Spirit. Now I charge you, as elders of the Ephesian church, to carefully watch over the church, just as the Good Shepherd watches over His sheep, who He bought with the sacrifice of His own blood. I know that after I leave you, there will be those who come to you whose motives are evil. Some will seek to deceive you, pretending to be Christians in order to draw closer to you and destroy you from the inside. Others will be more direct, persecuting you from the outside. They will come like wolves who want to devour the sheep. Even some among you, some who you now call brothers and sisters, will turn against you, preaching lies to try to divide you and persuade as many as will listen to leave the church and follow them. Remember, even for the three years that I was with you, I implored you, day and night, sometime in tears, to be on your guard against these things. Now I urge you once again to always be wary so that you will not fall prey to these wolves!”
Paul continues addressing the Ephesian elders, “I go now to Jerusalem, because the Holy Spirit draws me there, even though in every city I have visited, I have found prophets who tell me that death will overtake me soon if I continue on this path. But, although I may have fear in my heart of the pain that may be awaiting me, that will not deter me. I care nothing for my own life. It belongs to God, and I give it to Him to use as He sees fit. My only concern is to finish the work that He has entrusted me to do, and to finish well, as one who strives to finish a race. God, through His Holy Spirit, has given me a ministry, and charged me to travel all over the world teaching everyone about His love, forgiveness, mercy, and grace, and proclaiming the message of Jesus – He is God’s Son, He was sent here to live the perfect life that no person on earth could ever live, to die in our place the death that we all deserve to die in order to pay the penalty for the sins of the world, and to rise from the dead, defeating death itself on our behalf so that none who believe in Him need ever fear death, and in order to give those who call upon His Name forgiveness of sins and life forever with Him in Heaven.”
While docked at Miletus, however, Paul is overcome by the desire to speak with the elders of the Ephesian church, at the very least. He knows that his time on this earth is short, and that the possibility of being captured and killed follows him everywhere he goes. Believing that this may be his last chance to address his beloved Ephesian church, he sends a messenger to call the elders, requesting that they join him at the dock. And they come, immediately, which is a testament to their love and honor for him. With his traveling companions clustered around him, Paul addresses the elders. “You can testify to the way I lived with you from the first day that I came to you – that I served God humbly, facing all the danger that came upon me through the Jews who still plot against me willingly for His sake, weeping with you when you faced trouble of your own. You know that I was not timid in my proclamation of His message, that I did not hold anything back but taught you all that I was given by the Holy Spirit, both publicly in the synagogues and privately, going from house to house and ministering to each family who received me. I did not discriminate, but proclaimed the words of Jesus to all, both Jew and Gentile, encouraging everyone to turn away from sinfulness and to come to Jesus believing that He is God’s Son and the One who is able to release us all from slavery to sin.”
Acts 20:17-21, http://gorepent.com/wp-content/uploads/posts44/farewell.jpg
Departing Troas, Paul decides that he would prefer to travel on foot to the next port, Assos, while the rest of the delegation sails to Assos from the port of Troas. He makes the twenty-four mile journey in a few days and rejoins his friends in Assos, then they continue on together by boat to Mitylene, the capital of Lesbos. The ship departs from Mitylene and arrives in Chios the next day, Samos the day after that. They spend that night in Trogyllium, and arrive in Miletus the following day. Paul, determined to get to Jerusalem by Pentecost in order to take advantage of all the travelers in the city for the holiday, and so that he will have time to do what is needed in Jerusalem and still be able to get to Rome via Syria before winter, decides not to stop in Ephesus to visit the church there, but to continue sailing toward Jerusalem.
Acts 20:13-16, http://markmcmillion.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/map-of-third-missionary-journey.jpg