Mirroring Christ – Tuesday, 7th Week of Easter- Acts 20:17-27
Paul is on his third missionary journey and has landed in Ephesus (modern day Turkey) but his desire is to go to Rome via Jerusalem. (19:21). He has made a substantial collection for the poor of Jerusalem and he wishes to give this to them. He sends his two helpers, Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia while he stayed on in Ephesus only to end up being mired in a riot due to his teaching.
As it happened, Paul’s teaching of faith in the “living God” caused a significant financial loss to those who made silver shrines of the goddess Artemis or Diana. The temple dedicated to this fertility goddess was considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The riot that was stirred up by the artisans led by a man called Demetrius was enough to end Paul’s three year sojourn in Ephesus. Though the riot was quelled, Paul knew that it was best he left Ephesus for the safety of the Christians in Ephesus.
Trouble had a way of following Paul even though he left Ephesus for Macedonia and then for Greece. Once again in In Greece as in Ephesus, he had to leave in haste because the Jews were plotting to kill him. So Paul makes a journey through Macedonia to Troas (Troy) from where he heads (via several cities) over five days and four ports to a place called Miletus which is about 78 kilometres (modern Google map) to Ephesus.
It is In Miletus that he calls for the elders of the Church to meet with him. There are several theories as to why he did not make the journey himself; for now it is sufficient to know that the community respected him enough for the elders to make their way to see him.
Paul now addresses the elders. This is the third and final time that Paul will makes a speech in the Acts of the Apostles. The first was in Pisidian Antioch in Chapter 13, the second was to the Greeks in chapter 17 and now to the Ephesian elders. This is the only speech or address that is made to a purely Christian audience and can well be called his farewell speech or his legacy to the Asian Church. The language and message of this speech is similar to the ‘pastoral letters’ that Paul wrote to Timothy and Titus.
The speech can be broken up into two portions. Today’s reading covers up the first part which talks about his relationship with the Ephesians; “his ministry among them, his present plans, and his future prospects (vs. 17-27)”. In his address he highlights his conduct and character from the moment he entered Asia. He has served the Lord with humility and never did he shrink from doing anything helpful. Paul states that he has testified to both the Jews and Greeks about repentance toward God and faith toward out Lord Jesus.
Under compulsion from the Holy Spirit, Paul now announces his journey to Jerusalem. Like his master Jesus, he has a premonition of what he must face there. He declares that while he is unsure of his fate, he knows that should imprisonment and persecution be awaiting him, the Holy Spirit will testify on his behalf as has always been the case.
If there is one thing Paul can never be accused of it is his lack of devotion to Christ. It is to him that he has given his hundred per cent not even counting his own life of any value. In this Paul was a true disciple and not just some follower. For a disciple is single minded and has only one Lord and one master.
Fr Warner D’Souza
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