As Paul is being led away (vv.35-37) he speaks to the solider in charge in Greek (v.37b). A little confused as to the polite and educated nature that this showed, the tribune confessed that he thought Paul was the Egyptian…who recently stirred up a revolt…(v.38). Historian Josephus confirms that this rebellion existed, and was led by an Egyptian, but it was most certainly not Paul. Instead, Paul identifies himself as a citizen of no obscure city and in doing so, no doubt, drew the favour of the tribune to prepare him for his next request:
“Please allow me to speak to the people.”
(Acts 21.39b, NET)
Paul wanted to address the mob that had just beaten him (vv.30-31). As we said yesterday, Paul is either single-minded to the point of his own downfall or knows that there is a bigger picture purpose in play.
He stands to address them in the Hebrew language and in doing so identifies with them rather than the Romans (cf. vv.37-39, 1 Corinthians 9.22). This is his moment, this is his chance to preach the good news to his fellow Jews (Romans 9.1-5). As Paul begins to speak (22.1), the crowd falls quite (22.2). This is his moment, this is his chance.
For you and for me, we see Paul working through almost the exact same steps that Jesus did as He was put on trial by the Romans before His own people ¹. We might think that this kind of ordeal was reserved for Jesus and for Paul, but we shouldn’t be surprised when the kinds of things they experienced appear in our lives.
No, the particulars might not be the same, but the opportunity to speak up for what is true, to share uniquely amongst a group of people that we identify with, and to keep pursuing God’s will for us despite earthly circumstances are all things that we can, and will, experience as we are conformed day by day into the image of the the Lord (Romans 8.29).
¹ -Similarities between Jesus and Paul as shown in Acts 20 and 21:
· Like Jesus, Paul traveled to Jerusalem with a group of disciples.
· Like Jesus, Paul had opposition from hostile Jews who plotted against his life.
· Like Jesus, Paul made or received three successive predictions of his coming sufferings in Jerusalem, including being handed over to the Gentiles.
· Like Jesus, Paul had followers who tried to discourage him from going to Jerusalem and the fate that awaited him there.
· Like Jesus, Paul declared his readiness to lay down his life.
· Like Jesus, Paul was determined to complete his ministry and not be deflected from it.
· Like Jesus, Paul expressed his abandonment to the will of God.
· Like Jesus, Paul came to Jerusalem to give something.
· Like Jesus, Paul was unjustly arrested on the basis of a false accusation.
· Like Jesus, Paul alone was arrested, but none of his companions.
· Like Jesus, Paul heard the mob crying out, Away with him!
· Like Jesus, the Roman officer handling Paul’s case did not know his true identity.
· Like Jesus, Paul was associated with terrorists by a Roman official.
iii. In a way unique to most of us, Paul really did know the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death (Philippians 3:10).