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Acts 20:1-7; 21:1-16 – Paul’s journey toward Rome via Jerusalem

Paul does not travel the direct route to Rome in the west. Instead he heads toward Jerusalem in the east. Why? Paul understood that the Church is one people made of both Jews and Gentiles. He believed that unity was expressed in the gospel being taken by Jews to Gentiles and by Gentiles meeting the needs of the poor among the Jews in Jerusalem. In 20:1-6 seven men are chosen from the various predominately Gentile Churches that Paul had established. These Gentiles are chosen to accompany Paul to Jerusalem to deliver a gift from each church to the poor in Jerusalem. Having given his final discourse to the Ephesian elders, Paul continues his journey to Rome via Jerusalem.

When they arrive at Tyre, once a city of idolatry that threatened God’s people, Paul and the company meet with believers in Jesus. Through the Spirit they speak of Paul’s future sufferings in Jerusalem. Their advice is that Paul not to go to Jerusalem, but Paul had already resolved in the Spirit to go regardless of the cost.

Continuing the journey, Paul came to Caesarea where we are reacquainted with an old friend – Philip the evangelist who had been one of the Seven. One wonders about the conversations between Philip and Paul. They could have spoken of Stephen, their respective missions to the Gentiles, Philip’s previous work among the poor in Jerusalem that Paul was now engaged with. Paul will later be imprisoned in Caesarea for several years. It is likely that Philip would have continued to encourage Paul. We learn that Philip had four unmarried daughters who prophesied. Did they prophesy while Paul was with them? If so, they also probably spoke of Paul’s forthcoming suffering.

While Paul was staying with Philip, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea and prophesied of Paul being bound and delivered into the hands of the Gentiles. This is now the third prediction of Paul’s passion recalling the three journey-predictions Jesus made on his journey to his passion in Jerusalem. Indeed, the language Agabus uses is identical – bound and delivered into the hands of the Gentiles. While the hearers of Agabus weep for Paul not to continue, Paul is determined to deny himself, take up his cross and follow Jesus to Jerusalem.

As an aside, the stay in Caesarea and later in the house of Mnason of Cyprus, an early disciple all would have contributed to Luke’s receiving eye-witness accounts of Jesus’ ministry and the early church.