“The whole city was stirred up, and the people rushed together. They seized Paul, dragged him out of the temple... They were trying to kill him! ... All Jerusalem was in chaos! ... Seeing the commander and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. Then the commander approached, took him into custody, and ordered him to be bound with two chains! ... Some in the crowd were shouting one thing and some another! ... (Paul) had to be carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the crowd, for the mass of people followed, yelling, ‘Get rid of him!’ ” (Acts 21:30–36).
I’ve never been beaten and drug out of town. An angry mob hasn’t threatened my life. Have you? But... have you ever felt a little ostracized, shunned, snubbed, ignored, or cold-shouldered? Maybe?
When Paul got to the steps of the city jail, he asked for the privilege of speaking to the angry crowd. Somewhat reluctantly, I suppose, the commander allowed it. The twenty-second chapter of Acts records Paul’s personal testimony.
He started with a kind and polite address to his would-be executioners. He might have said, “You brood of vipers, you murderers and thugs!” He didn’t. He said, “Brothers and fathers...” (Acts 22:1), which got their attention. “When they heard that he was addressing them in Aramaic, they became even quieter” (Acts 22:2). He was speaking their language, their native tongue.
As they listened, he shared his story, beginning with what may have seemed to Paul like ancient history. “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strictness of our ancestral law. I was zealous for God, just as all of you are today. I persecuted this Way to the death, arresting and putting both men and women in jail, as both the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify about me. After I received letters from them to the brothers, I traveled to Damascus to arrest those who were there and bring them to Jerusalem to be punished” (Acts 22:3–5).
Then Paul got to the point. He wasn’t just telling a story to placate and pacify the crowd. He wanted to lead them to the life-changing Savior, to Jesus his Lord and Master.
“As I was traveling and approaching Damascus, about noon an intense light from heaven suddenly flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ He said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, the one you are persecuting.’ Now those who were with me saw the light, but they did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me” (Acts 22:6–9).
Paul gave witness to the transforming power of God. He shared his personal testimony of how God radically and eternally changed his heart and life. “They listened ... Then they raised their voices, shouting, ‘Wipe this man off the face of the earth! He should not be allowed to live!’ ... They were yelling and flinging aside their garments and throwing dust into the air” (Acts 22:22–23).
We’re not responsible for changing a broken world. That’s God’s job! We’re only responsible for being light in a dark world. When’s the last time you told somebody about the difference Jesus has made in your life?