Photo by Tim Boote

Paul in Jerusalem, II: Preparation (Acts 21:17-26)

Jun 16, 2023 By: Damien Garofalo Topic: Sermon Devotional Series: Acts Scripture: Acts 21:17-26

And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed. They are all zealous for the law, 21 and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs. 22 What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. (Acts 21:20b-22 ESV)

We continue our sub-series in Acts focusing on Paul in Jerusalem. Last week, we considered Paul’s determination to go to Jerusalem, and this week, we begin with Paul at his destination, considering his preparation for the suffering that was promised to him.

How does one prepare for suffering, exactly? More specifically, how does one prepare himself for persecution and imprisonment? After all, God, by his Spirit, specifically warned Paul on numerous occasions that he will be bound in Jerusalem and imprisonments await him. As far as we know, Paul doesn’t know the timing of all this, but he knows of its inevitability.

How would you and I prepare? If we knew that we had just a short time left until our freedom was severely limited, or perhaps even our lives were about to end, what would we do? What would we prioritize? Would we check off our “bucket lists?” Would we “live life to the fullest?” Would we wallow in despair?

This section of Acts 21 gives us insight into the priority of a man who was totally sold out for Jesus Christ and the gospel. Perhaps the most striking element is that there is no hint at all of Paul emotionally, spiritually, or physically “preparing” himself for his eventual arrest. Rather, his focus is on the glory of God – particularly in the unity of the church!

Remember, Paul went to Jerusalem with a gift from the Gentiles; he heard about the Judaizers; he was zealous to do what he could to foster unity between Jew and Gentile in church at Jerusalem. That is why he came to Jerusalem in the first place. 

Following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, when Paul was faced with certain, looming suffering, he focused on preparing others, not himself, for the future. Acts 21:17-26 is an inspired case study of selflessness and prioritizing what matters most.

You and I are not likely to be told what will happen to us in the way Paul was told, but we do know that life is a vapor (James 4:14), and every day is an opportunity to be selfless, putting the needs of others in front of our own. In this way, we model our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.