When the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him, crying out, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against the people and the law and this place. Moreover, he even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.” For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple. Then all the city was stirred up, and the people ran together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and at once the gates were shut. And as they were seeking to kill him, word came to the tribune of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion. He at once took soldiers and centurions and ran down to them. And when they saw the tribune and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. Then the tribune came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains. He inquired who he was and what he had done. Some in the crowd were shouting one thing, some another. And as he could not learn the facts because of the uproar, he ordered him to be brought into the barracks. And when he came to the steps, he was actually carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the crowd, for the mob of the people followed, crying out, “Away with him!” Acts. 21:27-36 ESV
Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me;
all day long an attacker oppresses me;
my enemies trample on me all day long,
for many attack me proudly.
When I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me?
All day long they injure my cause;
all their thoughts are against me for evil.
They stir up strife, they lurk;
they watch my steps,
as they have waited for my life.
I must perform my vows to you, O God;
I will render thank offerings to you.
For you have delivered my soul from death,
yes, my feet from falling,
that I may walk before God
in the light of life. Psalm 56:1-6, 12-13 ESV
Some time ago a terrible thing happened in Pinetown, South Africa. A father and his friend had picked up the father’s 11-year-old son at school and were driving in a car when the boy said he was hungry. The father stopped and got out of the car to go and buy his son something to eat. A crowd of people saw this, and they somehow got the idea that the boy was being kidnapped by these two men. Some people in the crowd even heard a story that a little girl had been tied up and thrown into the trunk of the car, which wasn’t true at all. The crowd quickly became violent and turned over the car, and before everything was over the two men were killed.
Something like that happened to Paul while he was in Jerusalem. In the temple, it was against the law for a Gentile to go past a certain point, and any Gentile who did that would be put to death. Some of the Jewish people had seen Paul in town with a Gentile named Trophimus, and they got the idea that Paul had taken his friend into the temple where he didn’t belong. This wasn’t true, but everyone had heard of Paul and his work, and they were already angry with him because they believed he was turning people away from their religion. They dragged Paul out of the temple and shut the gates behind him and started beating him. The crowd was planning to kill him, but some Roman soldiers found out what was happening and stopped the crowd. The soldiers arrested Paul and put him in chains while they tried to figure out what the problem was. Everybody was shouting different things, and so the soldiers decided to take Paul to the barracks away from the crowd so they could question him. The people were so angry that the soldiers had to carry Paul away from them.
When Paul suffered beating and false accusations, he was suffering a little of what Jesus had suffered for him and for all of us. Jesus allowed himself to be accused of things that weren’t true, and beaten and whipped and put on a cross to die. He did all of this because he loves us so much and wanted to win the forgiveness of our sins by paying for them on the cross. Sometimes his people also suffer false accusations and hatred and beating and even death, but nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus. He is with us to help us and give us the strength we need if we are called to suffer for him. We know that he will never let us go, not now and not forever.
Dear Jesus, thank you for suffering and dying for us. Please be with us and help us when we are called to suffer for your sake. Amen.