Acts 17:5-9 (NIV)
But the Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other brothers before the city officials, shouting: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.” When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil. Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go.
Paul and company had been in Thessalonica just a bit over three weeks and had had moderate success bringing some of the Jewish people and lots of God-fearing gentiles into the kingdom. It wasn’t all the success he wanted, but he saw it as a good start, and planned to continue working in the synagogue to get more to believe.
But those plans were cut short. A large contingent of Jews were jealous of Paul’s success, and of the power that he continued to demonstrate, a power that they themselves completely lacked. But rather than giving themselves over to Paul’s instruction to learn from him the secret of his power, they decided to take him out. They raised a mob and fomented a riot that made its way through the city to Jason’s house, where Paul and Silas and their group were staying.
They were very disappointed to find that the targets of their wrath were not there, but rather than go away empty handed, they dragged Jason and some of the other believers out of the house and rushed them through the streets of the city to the magistrates.
Their charges were many and serious:
- Paul and Silas were troublemakers (the Greek indicates that they were “turning the world upside down” wherever they went). They had caused problems and unrest all over the empire and had now come to Thessalonica.
- Jason, a citizen of Thessalonica, had become complicit in the trouble they had caused by allowing his house to serve as their base of operations.
- They were all guilty of treason and rebellion against Caesar, pledging loyalty to a new king, Jesus. This kind of rebellion could not go unchallenged, so they felt it their civic duty to bring them to the officials.
Even though there was some truth underlying every one of these accusations, the accusations were false because of the context in which they were cast. But Paul and Silas were not there to present their side of the case, so the truth could not be properly understood or adjudicated.
The magistrates had no idea how to handle accusations of this nature and only a few limited tools in their arsenal to try. So, they imposed a fine on Jason and the others, wagged a disapproving finger in their faces, and told them to stop associating with those troublemakers.
Paul had been through this kind of thing enough times to know that the best course of action was to simply leave town, to move on and to start again in the next city. He gave as much last-minute instruction as possible to the disciples, and then left the city under cover of darkness, traveling to Berea, about 25 miles to the west.
Father, I find it interesting that the truth can be presented in such a way that the resulting information can end up being a lie! Facts are facts, but context determines how facts end up being interpreted.
- There had indeed been trouble in many places that Paul had visited, but the trouble was not stirred up by him, but by his opponents who had objected to the truth he was binging and the success he was having.
- Jason had let Paul stay in his house, a simple act of hospitality, but there was no “crime” that he was abetting.
- Christians did commit to living in Your kingdom and to serving Jesus as their king. But they also pledged to be good citizen of their nation, to pay appropriate taxes, and to respect their leaders (Romans 13:1-7).
Help me today, Lord, to be as wise as Paul and Silas, as meek as they were, and as diligent in following Your lead as they were. Amen.
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