1 1 The Apostle Paul, Part 6 of 6: From a Jerusalem Riot to Prison in Rome! By Joelee Chamberlain Well, we've had some exciting talks about the life of the apostle Paul, haven't we?! How he was miraculously saved on the road to Damascus and then about the three missionary journeys he went on where there were riots and escapes from bad people and an earthquake and all sorts of things! I even told you last time about a young man falling asleep during the sermon and falling out of the window! But then the last time I had to stop talking to you just as a rioting crowd of men had been beating Paul and was about to kill him, but they were stopped by the Roman soldiers! So let's go on now and see what happened next, okay? And we'll finish up the series of stories we're having about the apostle Paul. Now, where in the Bible are we going to be able to find this? Yes, in the book of Acts in the New Testament. And who wrote the book of Acts? That's right, Luke, a doctor, wrote Acts, the same man who wrote the Gospel of Luke. But first, why was the mob rioting this time? Well, remember, Paul had been at the temple in Jerusalem, and some unbelieving Jews saw him there, and they started yelling, "Men of Israel, help us! This is the man who teaches everyone not to obey the law of Moses and not to follow our customs! And now he has brought a Gentile into the temple!!" Well, none of that was true, was it?! But some of them thought it was true, and everyone started running together and grabbed Paul and dragged him out of the temple area and the doors were slammed shut! And the bad men began beating Paul and were about to kill him. But, remember, the Romans ruled then, and they had a fort right next to the temple, so they heard all of the racket, and the commander of the fort took soldiers and officers and ran down and got Paul away from the mob and tied him up. Then the Roman commander asked who Paul was and what he'd done wrong. Well, the crowd wasn't quite sure! Some said one thing, and some said other things! They just knew that they were excited and wanted to kill Paul! (We need to be careful not to follow crowds without knowing what's going on, don't we?!) Well, the commander said, "Carry this man into the fort!" And the mob was so excited and so bad that the soldiers actually had to pick Paul up and carry him! But the crowd followed the soldiers, shouting, "Kill him! Kill him!" As Paul was then being led into the fort, he spoke to the commander in Greek. Greek was the common language then. Many of the Jews spoke the language of the Hebrews, though. But Paul said to the commander in Greek, "Please, may I speak to you?" The commander seemed surprised and said to Paul, "Can you speak Greek? Aren't you that Egyptian who's been making such an uproar and who led 4000 murderers out into the desert?" You see, the commander didn't know who Paul was at all and actually thought he was a
2 2 really bad man! But Paul said, "I am a Jewish man from the important city of Tarsus." And Paul said to the commander, "Please let me speak to the people." The commander said he could, so Paul stood there on the stairs leading into the fort and put up his hand for the people to be quiet. Finally they were very quiet, and Paul began speaking to the people in the language of the Hebrews. "Men and brothers," Paul said, "Please listen as I tell you my side of the story." Well, when the Jews heard him speaking their own language, they were even more quiet, so Paul went on and explained to them who he was. He said, "I am a Jew born in Tarsus, but I learned from the great teacher Gamaliel right here in Jerusalem. I learned about the laws of our fathers. And I wanted to please God, so I used to persecute, believers in Jesus, tying them up and taking them to prison and some were even killed. The high priest and our other leaders here know this, and they gave me letters so I could go to the city of Damascus and tie up the believers there and bring them back here to Jerusalem to be punished. But in the middle of the day as I was traveling along and got near to Damascus, suddenly a great light shone around me, and I fell to the ground, and a voice spoke to me saying, `Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?' Well, I answered the voice and said, `Who are you, sir?' And he said to me, `I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting.'" Paul kept talking and said, "There were men with me, and they saw the light and were afraid, but they didn't know what was being said. And I said, `What shall I do, Lord?' And the Lord said to me, `Get up and go into the city of Damascus, and you will be told there what you must do.' And when I got up, I couldn't see because the light had been so bright, and they took my hand and led me into Damascus." And Paul said, "And there was there in Damascus a godly man named Ananias, and all the Jews there respected him. And Ananias came to me and said, `Be able to see.' And right away I could see again. And Ananias said to me, `God has chosen you to know what He wants done and to tell people what you have seen and heard.' And Ananias said to me, `Now why are you waiting? Get up and be baptized. Call on the name of the Lord to be saved.'" Paul kept talking to the crowd of people and said, "And when I went again to Jerusalem, I was praying in the temple, and I had a vision in which the Lord warned me to leave Jerusalem right away, as the Jews there wouldn't listen to me if I told them about Jesus. And I said to the Lord, `Lord, they know I used to persecute believers in Jesus, having them beaten and thrown in jail and even agreeing when they were killed. In fact, when Stephen was stoned, I held their coats while they threw the stones at him to kill him.' And the Lord then said to me, `Just leave. Because I'm going to send you far away to the Gentiles.'"
3 3 Well, the crowd had been listening quietly. But at this point they all began shouting again, "Kill him!" You see, many Jews did believe in Jesus and were saved, but many other Jews did not believe. And the Jews in the crowd were some of ones who did not believe in Jesus, and they didn't want anyone else to believe in Jesus either or even to hear about Jesus at all. And they didn't like Gentiles either, people who weren't Jews. And here was Paul saying that he used to hate Christians, too, but now he was a Christian himself and was even telling the Gentiles to believe in Jesus! So they just shouted, "Kill him! Such a man shouldn't live!" And they threw off their coats and began throwing dust in the air. (They wouldn't dare throw rocks at Paul when he was surrounded by Roman soldiers!) Now, I'm not sure, but it seems to me that the commander had not been able to understand the language of the Hebrews and so he didn't know what Paul had been saying to the crowd. At any rate, the commander gave orders to take Paul into the Roman fort and said, "Beat him so that we can find out why the crowd is so against him!" He figured that would make Paul tell him what he had done wrong. But as they were tying Paul up to beat him, Paul said to the centurion, the Roman soldier in charge there, "Isn't it against the law to beat a Roman citizen without a trial?" Remember, anyone who was born in a Roman colony was a Roman citizen, and that was very important. They had certain rights. Oh, my! When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and said, "Be careful what you do! This man is a Roman citizen!" Then the commander said to Paul, "Tell me, are you really a Roman citizen?" Paul said, "Yes, I am." one." The commander said, "I am a Roman citizen, too, but I had to pay a lot of money to become Then Paul said, "I was born that way." (Remember he was born in Tarsus in a Roman colony.) Then right away the ones who had been going to beat Paul left, and the commander was afraid, too. After all, he had tied up a Roman citizen to beat him without a trial! So he just kept Paul there in the jail of the fort. Well, the next day the commander called for the chief priests and leaders of the Jews to
4 4 come to him, and he untied Paul and brought him out to them. He was going to try to find out what was going on! He wanted to know what they said that Paul had done that was so bad! Well, Paul looked around, and he realized that part of the Jewish leaders were Sadducees and part of them were Pharisees. The Pharisees and Sadducees were two big, important groups of Jews. The Pharisees knew the Jewish laws very, very well, and also they believed that someday there would be a resurrection, a time when people who had died would get their bodies back again, but all new and healthy bodies. (They were right in this, weren't they? Jesus had been resurrected, raised from the dead, Himself, hadn't He? And the resurrection of dead people will happen when the Lord Jesus comes back to earth again someday, won't it?) But the other group of leaders, the Sadducees, didn't believe much of anything! And especially they did not believe that people would someday be resurrected. Well, Paul was a Pharisee himself, and he got a good idea! So after a little bit he shouted out, "Men and brothers! I am a Pharisee, and my father was a Pharisee. I'm being questioned because of our hope of the resurrection of the dead!" Well, that did it! The leaders all started talking, and some of the Pharisees got up and said, "We don't think Paul has done anything wrong! Let's not fight against God!" And the Sadducees and Pharisees began arguing back and forth! And they grabbed hold of Paul, and the Pharisees tried to pull him one way, while the Sadducees tried to pull him the other way! Well, the Roman commander was afraid they'd really hurt Paul, so he ordered the soldiers to go rescue Paul again and to take him back into the fort! What a time! And then that night the Lord stood by Paul and said to him, "Cheer up, Paul! You've been my witness here in Jerusalem, and you'll be my witness in the city of Rome in Italy, too." I think that was very kind of God to encourage Paul that way, don't you? Well, the next day a group of more than forty men who didn't believe in Jesus got together and decided they were going make a plan to try to hide and kill Paul. In fact, they made a very silly promise. They said, "We won't eat nor drink anything until we have killed Paul!" So these men went to the chief priests and elders, the leaders, and told them what they planned to do. And this was their plan. They told the chief priests and elders to tell lies to the Roman commander and to say that they wanted to ask Paul some more questions. And then they were to ask the commander to take Paul to a certain place the next day where they could talk to him. But instead of talking to Paul, these men were planning on waiting until Paul was near them and then kill him! What do you think of that plan?! Pretty bad, huh?! Well, it just happened that some way Paul's young nephew heard what the men had planned, and this nephew went to the fort and told Paul about it. Then Paul called to one of the centurions to come to him and said, "Take this young man to the commander; he has something important to tell him."
5 5 So the centurion took Paul's nephew to the commander and said, "The prisoner Paul asked me to bring this young man to you, because he has something to tell you." So the commander took Paul's nephew by the hand and took him aside and asked him, "What do you have to tell me? So Paul's nephew told the commander all about the plan to kill Paul. Then he said, "They are ready and are just waiting to hear from you." Well! The commander let the nephew leave, but first he said to him, "Be sure not to tell anyone that you've told me this." And then the commander called two centurions to him and said, "Get 200 foot soldiers and 70 horsemen and 200 spearmen! Have them ready in the middle of the night! And give them an animal for Paul to ride on, and take him safely to the governor in Caesaria!" And the Roman commander wrote a letter for them to give to the Roman governor explaining what was happening. Then that night the soldiers secretly took Paul quite a ways away from Jerusalem. And then the soldiers left Paul, and sent him on with the 70 horsemen. Well, they finally got safely to the governor in Caesaria and gave Paul and the letter to the governor. Now, the Bible doesn't tell us, but I can't help but wonder about all of those bad men who had promised not to eat or drink anything until they'd killed Paul! But I don't imagine that they starved themselves to death, do you?! We need to be careful what we say we're going to do, don't we?! Well, anyway, Paul had several trials before various very important Roman rulers, but I don't have the time to tell you about them. So I'm just going to say that Paul was able to give the Gospel to each of these big Roman rulers. So they all heard about how Jesus had died for our sins and then had been resurrected, came alive again, and how people were only saved from their sins by trusting Jesus to save them. Isn't it good that they heard the Gospel? And Paul also pointed out to them that this about Jesus wasn't done secretly. It had happened only about 30 years earlier in the big city of Jerusalem at a special feast time when lots of people had been there from all over the world. Everyone had heard about it. And there were lots of people alive who still remembered it very well. And Paul was in jail for about two years during this time of his trials, and the Roman rulers couldn't find anything that he'd done wrong. Finally one of them said to Paul, "Would you be willing to go back to Jerusalem and have me judge you there in front of the Jewish leaders?" The Bible doesn't say, but Paul probably knew that some of the unbelieving Jews in Jerusalem would try again to kill him if he went. Anyway, finally Paul said, "I haven't done anything wrong to the Jews. I should be judged before Caesar himself." Caesar was the emperor of
6 6 the whole big Roman empire and was in Rome in Italy. So finally the Roman leaders decided to send Paul clear over to Rome to Caesar. So the Romans there in Caesaria got Paul and some other prisoners together to send them to Rome, and they had a Roman centurion named Julius in charge of all of them. And Luke went with Paul. Now, the easiest way to get to Rome from Caesaria was by sailing clear across the Mediterranean Sea. So they all got on a ship and set sail. The ship had to stop at various ports, and at one city Julius very politely let Paul go visit his Christian friends there. Wasn't that kind of Julius? I think Julius must really have liked and trusted Paul. Well, it took quite a while for them to sail across the Mediterranean Sea as far as the island of Crete, because the winds weren't blowing like the sailors wanted. Remember, they didn't have motors or engines then. They just had sails or oars. But they didn't have only tiny boats. In fact, the ship Paul and Luke were on had over 250 people on it. There were prisoners and a centurion with soldiers to guard the prisoners and sailors to run the ship. The Bible doesn't say, but maybe there were other passengers besides Luke, as well. I don't know. Well, they finally got to the island of Crete and stopped there a while. Then the ships' captain and the owner of the ship wanted to sail on. But Paul warned them that it was now a dangerous time of the year to sail, as storms would be coming up. He said to them, "Sirs, if we sail, we will have a lot of trouble. Not only trouble for the ship and its cargo, but even for our own lives." But the captain thought the wind was right, so they decided to sail around to the other side of the island of Crete to a better harbor there, so they set sail and left. The wind was fine for just a little while. But then a big strong wind, a storm, came up that was blowing in the wrong direction for them! And instead of sailing around the island, they were blown out to sea! A day or so later with the storm still blowing and the ship being tossed around on the waves, the sailors were afraid the ship would be torn apart by the waves, so they worked hard and were able to put cables under the ship to tie it up to keep it from falling apart! Then they started throwing the cargo overboard so the ship wouldn't be so heavy. And many days went by where everything was dark because of the big storm, and everyone began thinking they were going to die. But Paul spoke to them. He stood up in the middle of the men and said, "Sirs, you should have listened to me when I told you not to set sail. But now I'm telling you to cheer up. No one on the ship will die because of the storm." Paul said to them, "I know this, because tonight the angel of the real God (who is my God), this angel stood by me and said to me, `Don't be afraid Paul! You are going to get to Rome and stand before the emperor Caesar. And God will let all of these men on this ship live.'" And Paul said, "So cheer up, sirs. I believe God, that He will do what He said. -- But first we are going to be wrecked on a certain island."
7 7 Well! The storm had been going on for two whole weeks! Strong winds and big waves! And about midnight the sailors realized that they were near an island. The water was getting more shallow, so they put out four anchors to keep the ship from crashing into the land. And, my, but they wished it were daytime so they could see what was going on! And then the sailors decided that they would get the little boat that was on the ship (sort of like a lifeboat) and get away from the ship, leaving everyone else! Just think! There would be no sailors to sail the ship! So the sailors began to put the little boat into the water so they could get into it and get away, but Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, "Unless the sailors stay in the ship, you can't be saved!" So the soldiers cut the ropes and just let the little boat fall into the water with no one in it! Well, it started to get to be morning and to be a little light, and Paul began encouraging the men on the ship. He said, "You haven't eaten for 14 days. Please, I beg you to eat something to keep your strength up. You aren't going to be hurt at all!" And when Paul got through talking, he took some bread and right in front of all of them he thanked God. Then he broke a piece of the bread off (remember, it wasn't sliced bread like we have), and he ate it. Then everyone else felt more cheerful after listening to Paul and watching him, so they all ate something, too. Then they threw the rest of the cargo (which was wheat) out of the ship to make it lighter. And when it was finally daytime, they saw the land, but the didn't know where they were. But there was a creek, some water, flowing down to the beach, and they decided to try to sail toward there. But instead, the ship ran aground! The front part of the ship was stuck and wouldn't move, but the back part was beaten by the waves and broke up! Wow! Well, the soldiers on the ship who were there guarding the prisoners were very worried. They knew they would be in big trouble is any of the prisoners escaped, so they decided they would kill the prisoners to keep any of them from swimming away and escaping. But the centurion in charge of the soldiers liked Paul and wanted to save him. (I don't know if this were still Julius or not.) Anyway, the centurion gave orders that anyone who could swim was to jump into the water and swim to the land. The rest were to grab a board or a part of the ship that had broken off and hold on to it and float to the land. So everyone got off of the ship and to the island safely, just as God had told Paul would happen! Of course, anything that God says will happen, always does happen, doesn't it?! We can trust God to do what He says! Well, they all got to the island safely, all of the soldiers and sailors and prisoners and any passengers. And they found out that the island was called Malta. Malta is a little island about 150 miles south of the tip of Italy. (You might ask someone to show you this on a map.) The people who lived on Malta were very kind to all of them. And they built a fire for them, because it was
8 8 cold. And Paul was one of the people gathering wood for the fire, when what do you think happened to him? Why, as Paul was putting his wood on the fire, a very poisonous snake was in the wood! And the snake came out and bit Paul on the hand and just held on! And the people who lived on the island saw this, and they said to each other, "Oh, this man must be a murderer who escaped being drowned at sea! But he's still going to die for his crimes!" But Paul just shook his hand, and the bad snake fell into the fire! And Paul felt fine! Well, the island people kept watching Paul, expecting him to fall down dead from the snake bite! But when nothing at all happened to him, they said that Paul must be a god! Of course, Paul was only being protected by the Lord, wasn't he? Now, the Bible doesn't tell us, but I'm sure, aren't you, that Paul told the people on the island about the only real God and about how to be saved from their sins and be able to go to heaven by trusting in Jesus? The chief man of the island was very nice to all of these shipwrecked men, including Paul and Luke. He found them places to sleep and eat. And the chief man's father was very sick. So Paul went to the sick man and laid his hands on him, and he was healed, was well again! When the people on the island heard this, then other people who were sick came to Paul, and God let Paul heal them, too. And everyone on the island was then very nice to Paul and Luke. So the soldiers and sailors and prisoners stayed on the island for three months until finally the winter was over and it was safe to sail again. But they had no ship themselves now, did they? It had been wrecked in the storm. But there was another ship and its crew on the island of Malta, too. They had spent the winter there, also. So Paul and the others got on this other ship. And when they left, the people from the island of Malta gave them everything that they needed for the trip. Well, finally they got to Italy. And then they started traveling on the land up to Rome, and on the way they met some other Christians. These other believers asked them to stay a week with them. I imagine they really liked talking with Paul, don't you?! Then Paul and the other prisoners and the centurion and the soldiers started out again and were getting near Rome. And when the believers in Rome heard that the apostle Paul was almost there, they came quite a few miles down to meet him. Paul thanked God for these Christian brothers, and he was encouraged by them. Well, they finally got to Rome itself. Rome! The main city of the whole big Roman empire! Where Caesar lived! Paul had wanted for years to go to Rome to visit the believers in Jesus there, and now he was finally there! Of course, he was a prisoner, but he had been well treated by the centurion on the journey -- and he hadn't had to pay to travel! The Roman government had paid his way, since he was a prisoner! Well, the centurion took the other prisoners to the captain of the guard in Rome, but Paul was allowed to rent a house and live there by himself with just a soldier to guard him.
9 9 Three days after getting to Rome, Paul called the leaders of the Jews in Rome to come to him. When they got there, he explained why he was there as a prisoner. That the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem had wanted him killed, so they had given him as a prisoner to the Romans in Jerusalem, even though he hadn't done anything wrong. He explained that the Romans would have let him go, because they couldn't find anything wrong that he'd done, but that the Jews had kept saying bad things about him until finally he had asked to go see Caesar. Of course, Paul wasn't accusing all of the Jews of doing bad things, just the ones who had wanted to kill him. Many other Jews were believers in Jesus. Well, the Jewish leaders in Rome said, "Why, we didn't even get a letter from Jerusalem about you! And no one has come here to accuse you of anything bad!" Then they said, "But we'd like to hear what you have to say, because we don't know anything about Christianity except that everyone seems to be against it!" So they set a day, and lots of people came to where Paul was staying, and he was able to tell them about Jesus all day long! He showed them how Jesus had been prophesied in the Old Testament and explained how Jesus had died for our sins but then was resurrected, made alive again, and how they could be saved from their sins and be with God when they died if they just trusted Jesus to save them. So, some people believed in Jesus then, though some didn't. Well, Paul just lived there in his rented house for two whole years. And his friends and anyone else could come visit him. And he would tell them about the Lord Jesus Christ. And no one tried to stop Paul from preaching and teaching. And that's what he liked best to do, wasn't it?! And that is the end of what Luke wrote about the life of Paul. He just stopped writing then. For whatever reason, Luke didn't wait to see and to write about what would happen when Paul would finally see Caesar or what happened to Paul after that. And this means that all of the book of Acts was written only about 30 years after Jesus was here on earth. Now, Luke also wrote the book of Luke, what we call the Gospel of Luke, too, didn't he? But since he wrote the book of Luke before he wrote the book of Acts, that means that he wrote the book of Luke even earlier than he had written the book of Acts, doesn't it? So he had to have written the Gospel of Luke even less than about 30 years after Jesus went back to heaven! Just think! So the book of Luke was written when many of the people who had actually seen Jesus and knew what had happened were still alive. Isn't that interesting?! While Paul was in prison in Rome, he wrote some of his letters that we have in the New Testament, letters to the different churches. And he was able to keep being a missionary even though he was still a prisoner, because, as I just said, many people came to see him, and he could teach them about Jesus and how to be saved by trusting in Jesus. He could also teach Christians how to live a good Christian life. So we have talked about the great apostle Paul 6 times now, haven't we? There is a lot in the
10 Bible about Paul, isn't there?! So, very quickly, what have we learned about him? 10 Well, when Dr. Luke first talks about him in the book of Acts, Paul was called Saul, wasn't he? But later he was called Paul. Paul was a very well educated Jew who at first thought he was serving the Lord God by persecuting Christians. But Jesus Himself appeared to him from heaven and talked to Paul, and then Paul realized that Jesus is God and that trusting in Jesus is the only way to be saved from our sins. Paul then began preaching and teaching about Jesus, both to Jews and to Gentiles. And then he went on three separate missionary journeys, didn't he? The first time he went with Barnabas, but who did he go with the next two times? That's right; he went with Silas. And they visited many cities. Some of those cities were Ephesus and Philippi and Corinth. In some places the people were mean to Paul, weren't they? He was beaten, he was stoned, he was thrown into prison, and there were riots! But always Paul kept talking about the Lord Jesus, because that is the most important thing in the whole world, isn't it? Very often it was the unbelieving Jews who caused the trouble, because they were jealous of him and didn't want people to start believing in Jesus instead of just following what they were teaching them. But other times Gentiles caused trouble for him. Finally, though, there was a riot at the temple in Jerusalem, and the Roman soldiers rescued Paul from the mob. He had several trials before various Roman rulers, but finally Paul was sent by ship to Rome to the emperor Caesar. On the way there was a big storm and a shipwreck, wasn't there? But the Lord saved everyone on the ship. And the last that Luke writes about Paul is when Paul is a prisoner in Rome. But he is living in a house that he rents, and his friends can come visit him whenever they want to, and he can tell many people about the Lord Jesus Christ. And Paul wrote letters to churches and people he knew, answering questions they had or correcting mistakes they were making or just encouraging them. And we have 13 of those letters in the New Testament in our Bibles. So we can read some of the letters that the apostle Paul wrote almost 2000 years ago! Yes, Paul can be an encouragement to us, too, can't he? We can read his letters in the Bible and learn more about the Lord and what the Lord wants us to do. We know that God will reward Paul in heaven for how faithful he was to God, and we know that we will have rewards in heaven, too, if we have trusted in Jesus and then follow Him. Of course, we can't all be missionaries like Paul was, but we can do the things that God tells us in the Bible to do. Like obeying our parents, being kind to other people, telling others about Jesus, just loving other people, and even by praying for missionaries and other Christians. We can read what Jesus wants us to do in Paul's letters. I hope you've enjoyed our six talks together about the apostle Paul. I have.