Just when the seven day period was almost up, the Jews from Asia, seeing [Paul] in the temple, stirred the crowd, and grabbed hold of him, crying out, "Men of Israel, help! This is the man whose teaching of people everywhere opposes this people, this people, this law and now he has defiled this holy place by bringing Greeks into the temple." They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, and they wanted to suggest that Paul had brought him into the temple. This profoundly disturbed the entire city, and the people hurriedly came together [from all quarters]. Seizing Paul they dragged him out of the temple precincts, and immediately the doors were shut. But as they were proceeding with his execution, word had come to the cohort's commander that all Jerusalem was on the verge of mayhem. He at once took soldiers and centurions, and hastened down to them; and seeing the cohort's commander and the soldiers had arrived, they stopped beating Paul. The commander came up and arrested him, ordering that he be bound with two chains. He inquired about his identity and what he had been doing in that place. Some of the crowd shouted one thing, some another; and since the uproar prevented him learning the facts, he ordered that he be brought into the barracks. Coming up to the steps, the soldiers had to carry him because of the crowd's fury; with many of the mob crying out, "Away with him!" Just as Paul was about to be taken into the barracks, he said to the commander, "May I tell you something?" He replied, "Do you know Greek? Are you not the Egyptian, then, who recently stirred a revolt, leading four thousand Assassins into the wilderness?" Paul replied, "I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of a not completely insignificant city; I beg you, let me speak to the people." - Acts 21:27-39/transliteration by Bruce C Wearne


IN CUSTODY: Paul was arrested by the Roman commender after he was dragghed out of the Temple precincts by a crowd. PICTURE: Ramzi Hashisho/www.freeimages.com

The plot against Paul came to Jerusalem. Paul's life is spared. The tribune realised that Paul was not the person he thought he was. 

Try to imagine the roller-coaster of emotion that would have been experienced by Luke, or any other Christian, had they been there to witness this rampaging mob.

Time was almost up. The seven days were almost complete and a sacrifice was about to be presented. Our imagined eye-witness holds his breath. And then, in the twinkling of an eye, it all goes "pear shaped". A mosh-pit forms in one of the temple precincts and manoeuvres Paul outside the temple gates. The doors are shut. The thoughtful scheme of the church's leaders has been nipped in the bud. Some fanatical zealots from Asia had recognised Paul and wanted him executed on the spot.

Apparently the law allowed Jews to kill those who had been judged guilty of desecrating the temple within its precincts, but here Luke tells us the mosh-pit somehow got Paul outside the gates and so the action became subject to the Roman civil law. By writing "and immediately the gates were shut" Luke has quietly told us how Paul escaped death.

Paul, beaten to within an inch of his life, stayed spiritually alert to what was taking place. He spoke to the tribune. No, he was not the terrorist the tribune had initially suspected him to be. So, an opportunity emerged for Paul to address the crowd.

Luke was also telling a personal story here about the renewal of his love for God as Jesus continued His work in the social context of the Roman Imperium. Jew and Gentile were discovering themselves as His disciples.