Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament account of the spiritual body of the Lord Jesus—the Church—as it was written and recorded in the book of Acts by Luke. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the twenty-first chapter of this New Testament book. “And it came to pass, that after we were gotten from them, and had launched, we came with a straight course unto Coos, and the day following unto Rhodes, and form thence unto Patara: and finding a ship sailing over unto Phenicia, we went aboard, and set forth. Now when we had discovered Cyprus, we left it on the left hand, and sailed into Syria, and landed at Tyre: for there the ship was to unlade her burden. And finding disciples, we tarried there seven days: who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem. And when we had accomplished those days, we departed and went our way; and they all brought us on our way, with wives and children, till we were out of the city: and we kneeled down on the shore, and prayed. And when we had taken our leave one of another, we took ship; and they returned home again. And when we had finished our course from Tyre, we came to Ptolemais, and saluted the brethren, and abode with them one day. And the next day we that were of Paul’s company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him. And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did. Prophesy. And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus. And when he was come unto us, he took Paul’s girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles. And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mind heart? For I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done” (Acts 21:1-14).
“And after those days we took up our carriages, and went up to Jerusalem. There went with us also certain of the disciples of Caesarea, and brought with them on Mnason of Cyprus, an old disciples with hom we should lodge. And when we were come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present. And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry. And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are with believe; and they are all zealous of the law: and they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs. What is it therefore? The multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come. Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them; Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing: but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and k eepest the law. As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication” (Acts 21:15-25).
“Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them. And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him, crying out, Men of Israel, help: this is the man, that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place. (For they had seen before with him in the city of Trophimus an Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.) And all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut. And as they went about to kill him, tidings came unto the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. Who immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down unto them: and when they saw the chief captain and the soldiers, they left beating of Paul. Then the chief captain came near, and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and demanded who he was, and what he had done. And some cried one thing, some another, among the multitude: and when he could not know the certainty for the tumult, he commanded him to be carried into the castle. And when he came upon the stairs, so it was, that he was borne of the soldiers for the violence of the people. For the multitude of the people followed after, crying, Away with him” (Acts 21:26-36).
“And as Paul was to be led into the castle, he said unto the chief captain, May I speak unto thee? Who said, Canst thou speak Greek? Art not thou that Egyptians, which before these days madest an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers? But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city: and, I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people. And when he had given him license, Paul stood on the stairs and beckoned with the hand unto the people. And when there was made a great silence, he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue, saying” (Acts 21:37-40).
When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find the apostle Paul having called for the elders of the church in Ephesus unto himself that he might deliver unto them farewell words. In the previous chapter found within this New Testament book you will find the apostle Paul steadfastly setting his face to go toward the city of Jerusalem knowing that he was bound in the Spirit to journey unto the city. In all reality I am convinced that in order to truly understand the words which are found in this particular chapter it is necessary to recognize that the apostle Paul had journeyed unto Jerusalem at different points during his apostolic and missionary journeys. The more you read the words which are found in this New Testament book the more you will find the apostle Paul together with his companions unto the city of Jerusalem. If you journey back to the eleventh chapter of this New Testament book you will find that when a great famine and dearth came upon the face of the earth during the days of the apostles the brethren of the church at Antioch purposed within themselves to send relief unto those which were in Judaea. It was decided and determined among the brethren which were at Antioch that Paul and Barnabas should take the offering and present it unto the brethren which were present in Judaea. What we must needs realize concerning this particular journey of the apostle Paul and Barnabas was that it would be during this time they would also journey unto the city of Jerusalem that they might encourage themselves in the Lord as well as their brethren.
As you continue reading in this New Testament book you will find that after the first apostolic and missionary journey Paul and Barnabas set themselves to go unto Jerusalem after it was heard the word of God was preached unto and among the Gentiles. If you turn and direct your attention to the words found in the fifteenth chapter of this New Testament book you will find the apostle Paul and Barnabas being present in the midst of the city of Jerusalem as they would give an account of their stewardship among the Gentiles. In chapters thirteen and fourteen you will find the apostle Paul and Barnabas teaching and preaching the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus unto the Gentiles and how they would themselves bring the word beyond merely the Jews alone. This would initially cause some concern among the brethren and elders which were present in the midst of the city of Jerusalem as they would still take issue with the Gentiles receiving the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus. What is important to understand is by this time the apostle Peter had already gone in unto the house of a Roman centurion by the name of Cornelius and preached the word of the Lord Jesus unto both he and his entire household. It would be in the tenth chapter of this New Testament book you will find the living and eternal God orchestrating events in the life of Peter in Joppa as well as events in the life of Cornelius in Caesarea that He might bring them together. The living God would send one of his holy angels and messengers unto Cornelius in Caesarea and declare unto him how his prayers and alms had come up before him as a memorial. As a direct result of his prayers and alms coming up before the living God He had sent his angel unto him instructing him to send for a man by the name of Simon whose surname was Peter and was at that time dwelling in Joppa. At the same time the Lord would also reveal unto Simon Peter while in prayer a vision of a large sheet coming down from heaven filled with all manner of beasts, creeping things and four-footed creatures. The word of the Lord to the apostle Peter would be to rise, kill and eat—instruction to which the apostle Peter would respond by declaring how nothing unclean or impure had ever touched his lips.
The words which are written and recorded in the tenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts is absolutely and incredibly necessary to consider for it begins to set the stage for the word of the Lord Jesus coming unto the Gentiles. What’s more is that in the tenth chapter—not only do we find the word of the Lord Jesus coming unto the Gentiles but we also find the gift of the Holy Ghost coming unto the Gentiles. There is a great need to recognize and pay close attention to both the gospel of the Lord Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit coming unto the Gentiles for that which the apostle Peter experienced in the house of Cornelius in Caesarea would be but the beginning of the Gentiles receiving the gospel of Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit. That which you find in the thirteenth and fourteenth chapters of the New Testament book of Acts is the apostle Paul and Barnabas departing from the church and brethren in Antioch after being separated and set apart by the Holy Ghost unto the work whereunto they had been called. Initially these two brothers in the work of the ministry would teach and preach the gospel of the Lord Jesus unto the Jews as they would enter into their synagogues. What they would encounter, however, was their preacher drawing large crowds—not only of Jews but also of Greeks who were otherwise known as Gentiles. Luke makes it perfectly clear that there were some Jews who believed while there were a great number of Gentiles who received the word of the Lord Jesus with gladness and wanted to hear more.
The entire purpose for the fifteenth chapter written and recorded in the New Testament book of Acts is centered upon the apostle Paul and Barnabas preaching and teaching the gospel of the Lord Jesus unto Gentiles. The apostle Paul and Barnabas essentially had to give and provide a defense before the elders and brethren which were in Jerusalem. It’s actually quite intriguing to read the words which are found in the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth chapters of the New Testament book of Acts for although the apostle Paul and Barnabas initially preached the gospel of the Lord Jesus unto the Jews it would be received with joy and gladness by the Gentiles. What’s more is that when the unbelieving Jews saw the great crowds that began to congregate toward the apostle Paul and Barnabas they began to blaspheme and oppose themselves in the sight and presence of these two brethren. Moreover the unbelieving Jews would attempt to incite unrest, confusion, chaos, division, discord and the like among those who would gather together to hear and listen to the word of the Lord Jesus. Despite the best attempts of the unbelieving Jews to stifle the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus from being preached unto the Gentiles Paul and Barnabas would continue preaching unto them. It was this particular truth that would be at the very heart of Paul and Barnabas journeying unto Jerusalem as was recorded in the fifteenth chapter of this book. It would be in the fifteenth chapter where Luke records how the apostle Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren and reminded them of his own experience with the Gentiles and how the living and eternal God instructed him to call no man common unclean when the Lord had cleansed them. It would be the apostle Peter who would first preach the gospel unto the Gentiles and would witness and behold their receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost as a direct result of his preaching. Ultimately words of encouragement would be sent unto the brethren and churches placing no additional burden upon them save that they keep themselves from idols and from fornication.
It is absolutely necessary we recognize and understand the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts for after the fifteenth chapter we again find the apostle Paul needing to journey unto the city of Jerusalem for he had made a vow which he intended to keep. Within this New Testament book there are a number of instances and occurrences when we find and read of the apostle Paul seeking to journey unto the city of Jerusalem with this reference mentioned in the twentieth chapter being the last and final time he would journey unto the city. What we must needs realize and understand when we read the words which are found in the twentieth chapter of this New Testament book—and not only the words which are found in the twentieth chapter but also the words which are found in the twenty-first chapter is that the apostle Paul knew that he was going up unto the city of Jerusalem according to the word and will of the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul knew that He was going bound in the Spirit unto the city of Jerusalem and that the Spirit testified and bore witness unto him that bonds and afflictions awaited and abided in him in whatever city he entered and journeyed. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for the apostle Paul was very much aware that this journey to the city of Jerusalem might very well lead to tremendous suffering, affliction and persecution within his life. What’s more is the apostle Paul recognized and understood that this journey unto the city of Jerusalem might very well lead him to the end of his life where he would pour out his life as a drink offering before the Lord.
I sit here today thinking about the journey the apostle Paul must needs make unto the city of Jerusalem and how this journey which the apostle would make was entirely and altogether governed by the Holy Spirit. There is no mention in the twentieth chapter of the apostle Paul vowing a vow which he needed to keep but rather that he would journey unto the city of Jerusalem being bound in the spirit. Furthermore when speaking unto the elders of the Ephesian congregation the apostle Paul would declare unto that how he did not know what would befall him there in the city of Jerusalem save only that the Holy Ghost witnessed in every city saying that bonds and afflictions abided and even awaited him. This is actually incredibly important for us to recognize and understand for the apostle Paul recognized and understood that he had absolutely no idea what would await him in the city of Jerusalem but only that bonds and afflictions awaited him wherever he went. In all reality I would dare say the apostle Paul would himself make his way unto the city of Jerusalem knowing that he would most likely experience tremendous suffering, tremendous suffering and tremendous affliction within the city. Although he neither would nor could have anticipated that which would ultimately await and befall him there in the city of Jerusalem—at least not as of yet—he would know and understand that it was expedient and necessary for him to journey unto the city of Jerusalem. The apostle Paul recognized and understood that there was a great need for him to journey unto the city of Jerusalem neither knowing what the Lord would accomplish through him there in the midst of the city nor what would befall him while present in the city. It’s quite interesting to read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and consider the fact that when the apostle Paul purposed to journey unto the city of Jerusalem he did so not knowing what would come upon him in the midst of the city nor what the living God would accomplish in and through him.
As you come to the twenty-first chapter of this New Testament book you will find the apostle Paul drawing closer unto the city of Jerusalem and landing at Tyre. It would be there in Tyre he would find disciples and would tarry there seven days before ultimately moving on from that place. While in Tyre the apostle Paul and those companions who were with him would hear the disciples present in the midst of the city saying unto the apostle Paul through the Spirit that he should not go up to Jerusalem. It’s actually quite interesting when you read the words which are found in the twenty-first chapter of the New Testament book of Acts for the words presented here bring us face to face with the awesome and incredible truth surrounding the understanding of what would and could take place in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. The apostle Paul knew that he was going bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem and that he did not know what awaited him there save that the Spirit witnessed and testified unto him that bonds and afflictions abided and awaited him in every city he journeyed. Here in the twenty-first chapter of the book of Acts we find certain disciples speaking unto the apostle Paul through the Spirit that he should not go up to Jerusalem. Scripture is not clear what these disciples spoke unto the apostle Paul and why they through the Spirit encouraged him not to go up to Jerusalem, however, we can undoubtedly be certain they had a strong sense of the afflictions, the trials, the troubles, the suffering and the affliction the apostle would face upon entering into the city.
Upon continuing to read the words which are found in this New Testament book you will find the apostle Paul continuing on his journey unto the city of Jerusalem—perhaps at this time becoming more and more aware of what might very well await him there in the midst of the city. In Tyre the disciples through the Spirit urged him not to go unto the city of Jerusalem and it would be in Caesarea the apostle Paul would enter into the house of Philip the evangelist who was one of the seven. It would be while there in the house of Philip the evangelist that there came from Judaea a prophet named Agabus who would prophesy and proclaim the word of the Lord unto the apostle Paul. When Agabus arrived at the house of Philip the evangelist—perhaps being led there according to the word of the Lord—he took the apostle Paul’s girdle, bound his own hands and feet, and proceeded to declare according to the Holy Ghost that the Jews would likewise bind the man to whom the girdle belonged. Moreover Agabus would also declare unto the apostle Paul and all those who were together with him in the house of Philip the evangelist that he would be delivered into the hands of the Gentiles. In all reality this is something we must needs recognize and understand for it followed a similar pattern as that of the Lord Jesus whom the apostle Paul served and followed. I am absolutely convinced that in order to truly understand the journey the apostle Paul made unto the city of Jerusalem it is absolutely necessary for us to recognize the journey which our Lord had to make unto the city of Jerusalem. It would be in the four New Testament gospels where we would learn and discover the knowledge the Lord Jesus had of His need to journey unto the city of Jerusalem. What’s more is that the Lord Jesus not only knew He needed to go unto the city of Jerusalem but also knew what would befall and come upon Him there in the midst of the city. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the New Testament gospel narrative which was written by the apostle Matthew and the words which Jesus spoke unto His disciples concerning the journey unto Jerusalem which He must needs take:
“When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. HE saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ. From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosever will lose his life shall for my sake shall find it. For what a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” (Matthew 16:13-28).
“And when they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: and they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorrow” (Matthew 17:22-23).
“And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again” (Matthew 20:17-19).
“And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said unto his disciples, Ye know that after two days is the feast of the Passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified” (Matthew 26:1-2).
The words which we find in these passages bring us face to face with the journey our Lord must needs take place in this life as He walked among us as the Word made flesh. From the time Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi unto the time He would actually come unto the city of Jerusalem He would teach and reveal unto His disciples that He must needs suffer many things, be scourged, be mocked and be killed before ultimately rising from death to life on the third day. What these passages bring us face to face with is the fact that our Lord knew that His life and the path of the eternal and only begotten Son of the living God would ultimately lead to the city of Jerusalem. What’s more is that it would be there in the city of Jerusalem where Jesus would indeed be betrayed by one of His own before being handed over into the hands of the religious rulers and leaders of that day. It would be while in the hands of the religious leaders and rulers of that day Jesus would be mocked, ridiculed, falsely accused and the like before being delivered into the hands of the Gentiles. It would be the religious leaders of the Jews who would deliver Jesus unto Pontius Pilate who was the Roman governor of Judaea at that time. The religious rulers and leaders of that day would deliver Jesus unto Pontius Pilate knowing that they could not put Him to death themselves. Of course Scripture initially reveals how Pontius Pilate found no fault in the Lord Jesus and even sought to release Him. On more than one occasion in the four gospel narratives we find Pontius Pilate not only declaring how he found no fault with Jesus but also how he sought to release Him. Eventually, however, the mob would win out and get their way thus leading to Pilate delivering Jesus unto the Roman soldiers to be flogged and scourged before a crown of thorns was plated and placed upon His brow. By the time Jesus began carrying His cross He had already been scourged and flogged by Roman soldiers, He had already had His brow pierced by the crown of thorns, and He had already experienced a tremendous amount of suffering and affliction within His physical body.
It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand the narrative surrounding the Lord Jesus for when we read of the apostle Paul and his own journey unto the city of Jerusalem we come face to face with the fact that neither men sought to avoid the city. Both men knew and understood what journeying unto the city of Jerusalem would mean for them and understood that affliction and suffering abided them in the midst of the city. Jerusalem which was the capital city of the united kingdom of Israel, Jerusalem which was the capital city of the southern kingdom of Judah and Jerusalem which was the capital city of Judaea during the days in which Jesus walked upon the face of the earth would be the city that would not only witness the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus but also the suffering and affliction of the apostle Paul. Moreover it would be in the city of Jerusalem where Stephen would become the church’s first martyr and where James the brother of John would be put to death with the sword by Herod. Within the New Testament book of Acts and during the days of the apostles and early church—not only do we find the apostles themselves being threatened, imprisoned and beaten for the sake of the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus but we also witness and behold Stephen being stoned to death being the first martyr of the church. Moreover it would be in the city of Jerusalem where persecution would first break out against the church during the days of Saul of Tarsus when houses were entered and men and women were dragged out before being cast into prison. It would be in the city of Jerusalem where James the brother of John would be put to death with the sword by Herod who was king at that time. There in the city of Jerusalem the apostle Peter would also be imprisoned by Herod who intended on putting him to death as well before an angel of God intervened on his behalf and delivered him out of the prison where he was being held and from the hand of Herod.
When we come to the twenty-first chapter of the New Testament book of Acts we find the apostle Paul journeying unto the city of Jerusalem—the same city where the ancient Hebrew prophets themselves were stoned. In fact it would even be Jesus Himself who would speak of the city of Jerusalem which not only stoned and killed the prophets when He would weep over it knowing the judgment and destruction that would befall and come upon it. In the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by Matthew we find the following words: “Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 23:34-39). In the eleventh chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by Luke we find the following words which were spoken by Jesus: “Woe unto you! For ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, and your fathers killed them. Truly ye bear witness that ye allow the deeds of your fathers: for they indeed killed them, and ye build their sepulchres. Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute: that the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation; from the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, it shall be required of this generation” (Luke 11:47-51).
With this in mind I would like to call and draw your attention to the words which are written and recorded in the final verses of the thirteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by Luke as well as the words which are found in the final verses of the eleventh chapter of the New Testament epistle written unto the Hebrews. It is in the thirteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by Luke we find an echo and reiteration of that which we previously read in the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew. In the eleventh chapter of the New Testament epistle which was written unto the Hebrews we find the author of the epistle speaking of those whom time failed to afford them to describe in detail all of those who lived their lives walking in and governed by faith. Oh I am absolutely convinced we must needs recognize and understand the words which are found in these two passages of Scripture for they help further shine an incredible light on just how important the city of Jerusalem was—not only in the four gospel narratives for the Lord Jesus but also in the book of Acts for the apostles and followers of the Lord Jesus. The city of Jerusalem would be at the forefront of tremendous persecution which would break out against the early church and it would be at the forefront of persecution against the apostles as well as the Lord Jesus. In fact what would begin with the Lord Jesus and His suffering before being crucified would continue with His apostles after His ascension unto the right hand of the Father in heaven as well as His followers and body which would remain in the earth. Consider if you will the following words which are found within these two passages present within the New Testament:
“The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying unto him, Get thee out, and depart hence: for Herod will kill thee. And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected. Nevertheless I must walk to day and to morrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which. Killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! Behold your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Luke 13:31-35).
“And what shall I more say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephtae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: and others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were saw asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (of whom the world was not worthy) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:32-40).
The words which we find in the New Testament gospel narratives written by the apostle Matthew and the physician Luke bring us face to face with the words Jesus spoke concerning Jerusalem—not only how Jerusalem was guilty of stoning and killing the prophets but also how the city would be responsible for all the blood which was shed upon the earth from the time of righteous Abel until the blood of Zecharias son of Barachias who was slaughtered between the porch and the altar. It was Jesus who spoke of the city of Jerusalem which stoned and killed the prophets and now as if that weren’t enough the city would be guilty of putting to death the very Son of God. Jesus would journey unto the city of Jerusalem knowing how Jerusalem together with its people, its priests, its rulers and its kings had stoned and killed the prophets. Jesus knew that He must needs journey unto the city of Jerusalem and that in the city of Jerusalem He would be betrayed by one of his own before being delivered into the hands of the religious rulers and leaders of that generation. Jesus knew that if He journeyed unto the city of Jerusalem He would most certainly face and experience suffering and ultimately death. Jesus knew that the city of Jerusalem was the city where the prophets of old were stoned and killed and that on top of everything that had happened unto the prophets the city would now add putting to death the very Son of God. Despite that which Jesus knew of the city of Jerusalem during the days of the prophets and what would await and befall Him there in the city He would set His face like flint to go unto the city. There would be absolutely no desire or intention of the Lord Jesus to avoid the city of Jerusalem for He knew that despite the suffering and death He would endure and experience there was something greater and bigger than Himself which needed to be accomplished. Jesus would deliberately and intentionally set his face like flint to go unto the city of Jerusalem despite the city being that city which shed and spilt the blood of the ancient Hebrew prophets.
With all of this being said we must needs recognize and understand what it would have been like for the apostle Paul to set his face like flint to go unto the city of Jerusalem. The apostle Paul would purpose to journey unto the city of Jerusalem knowing that it was in the city of Jerusalem where the Lord Jesus was killed and crucified. The apostle Paul would journey unto the city of Jerusalem knowing how it would be in the city of Jerusalem where He would experience the same type of suffering the Lord Jesus had experienced. Just as the Lord Jesus was delivered unto the hands of Gentiles in the city of Jerusalem so also would he too be delivered into the hands of the Gentiles there in the midst of the city. Moreover it would be there in the city of Jerusalem where the beginning of the end would be marked for the apostle as his journey unto Jerusalem would eventually and ultimately lead him to an even greater city within the known world at that time. I am absolutely convinced the apostle Paul had absolutely no clue that he would journey unto the city of Jerusalem and that it would lead ultimately lead him unto the city of Rome and to the very heart of the Roman Empire, however, Jerusalem would be but the beginning of the journey for the apostle Paul. The city of Jerusalem would indeed be the beginning of the end for the apostle Paul for it would be in the city of Jerusalem where he would suffer much affliction at the hands of the Jews.
I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and what journeying unto the city of Jerusalem would have meant for the apostle Paul at that time. It was in the city of Jerusalem the kings, rulers, priests and the like stoned and killed the prophets of old who came prophesying the word of the Lord and called men unto repentance before the Lord. It would be in the city of Jerusalem where the religious leaders and rulers would crucify and put to death the Lord Jesus Christ. It would be in the city of Jerusalem where the Gentiles would publicly scourge and flog the Lord Jesus before plating a crown of thorns and placing it upon the brow of the Lord Jesus. In the city of Jerusalem the Lord Jesus would experience tremendous suffering and affliction which would ultimately lead to His carrying the cross unto the place of the skull where he would be killed and crucified. As if this weren’t enough the apostles themselves would experience tremendous affliction and persecution in the midst of the city. It would be in the city of Jerusalem where the apostles would be threatened, beaten and imprisoned for the sake of preaching the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus. It would be in the city of Jerusalem where Stephen one of the seven deacons ordained by the brethren would become the church’s first martyr. In the city of Jerusalem persecution would first break out against the church and would force all but the apostles to be scattered throughout Judaea and Samaria. There in the city of Jerusalem Saul would enter into houses and homes dragging men and women out of their homes before committing them into prison. It would be this city of Jerusalem which would witness James the brother of Jesus being put to death with the sword by Herod and it would be there in the city of Jerusalem where the apostle Peter would even be imprisoned while he awaited his presumed fate of being put to death as James was.
In all reality I find it absolutely incredible to read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for when speaking unto the elders of the Ephesian congregation the apostle Paul testified unto them how he went bound in the spirit unto the city of Jerusalem not knowing what would befall him there. The only thing the apostle Paul knew was that the Spirit witnessed unto him that bonds and afflictions awaited him in every city whereunto he journeyed. Upon coming to Tyre the apostle Paul would hear some of the disciples there through the Spirit urging him not to journey unto the city of Jerusalem although Luke doesn’t record what words they specifically used to speak unto the apostle Paul. In Caesarea a prophet from Judaea by the name of Agabus would prophesy unto the apostle Paul that his hands and feet would be bound in the city of Jerusalem and that he would be delivered unto the Gentiles. Scripture doesn’t reveal anything else Agabus declared unto the apostle Paul nor unto the brethren which were present at the house of Philip the evangelist save that in Jerusalem the apostle Paul would be bound and delivered into the hands of the Gentiles. It is actually quite astonishing to read the words which are found in the twenty-first chapter of this New Testament book for even when the brethren and those who were together with the apostle Paul at the house of Philip the evangelist besought him not to journey unto the city of Jerusalem he would respond to them by asking them why they wept and broke his heart. The apostle Paul would go on to declare that he was not only ready to be bound only but also die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.
Stop for a moment and consider the tremendous truth that is found within the opening verses of the twenty-first chapter of the book of Acts for the words we find here are the apostle Paul being warned of what would befall him in the city of Jerusalem. The apostle Paul knew that the Spirit bore witness with his spirit that bonds and afflictions abided him in every city wheresoever he went. The apostle Paul knew that his journey unto the city of Jerusalem would indeed bring him to a place where he would be bound by the Jews and would ultimately be delivered unto the Gentiles. What makes this all the more interesting is that Agabus does not appear to reveal unto the apostle Paul what would happen to the apostle Paul after he was delivered unto the Gentiles. There was a lot of uncertainty surrounding the apostle Paul journeying unto the city of Jerusalem and the only thing the apostle Paul knew for sure was that he was going bound by and in the spirit unto it. The apostle Paul knew that bonds and afflictions abided him in whatever city he journeyed to and despite not knowing what exactly would befall him in Jerusalem he was willing to make the journey unto it. Pause for a moment and consider how incredibly unique that truly is when you consider the fact that although the apostle Paul faced a lot of unknown surrounding his journey unto the city of Jerusalem he would still make the journey. Despite and regardless of what he faced in the city of Jerusalem he would purpose to journey unto the city regardless being willing to accept and endure whatever lie before him. Consider for a moment if you yourself have the same purpose and the same resolve within your own heart and soul—the purpose and resolve to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit not knowing what lie before you. Do you yourself possess the resolve, the commitment and the dedication to make the journey unto those places the Spirit leads and guides you not knowing or being aware of what would befall you—even suffering and your own death? Do you serve the Lord with all faithfulness and all readiness to endure anything and everything that might come your way?
As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in the four New Testament gospels and how the Lord Jesus called and invited His disciples and followers to not only deny themselves but also to take up their cross and follow Him. Moreover the Lord Jesus would declare unto His followers that whoever saved his life would lose it but whosoever lost his life in this life for the sake of the name of Jesus would gain it. What we find in this passage of Scripture is the apostle Paul not only being willing to deny himself but also take up his cross as that cross would include afflictions and bonds in whatever city he journeyed. The apostle Paul would indeed consider his life as nothing more than an offering with which to be poured out before and unto the living God. The apostle Paul was willing to leave everything on the line and leave nothing offered before and unto the living God. The apostle Paul was willing to allow himself to be poured out completely and fully before and unto the living God. The apostle Paul was completely and utterly unwilling to leave any part of his life not offered unto the living God and would journey wherever He was called and instructed to that He might fulfill that which was asked of him. The apostle Paul was willing to allow his life to be an offering with which he would indeed please the Lord Jesus. For the apostle Paul his life was the single greatest offering he had to give unto the Lord Jesus and he would not hold it back from offering it unto Him. This reality is perhaps seen in greater measure in the third chapter of the New Testament epistle written by Paul unto the Philippian saints.
In bringing this writing to a close I leave you with the words which are found in both the second and third chapters of this New Testament epistle for in the second chapter we find the offering of the Lord Jesus Christ while in the third chapter we find the offering of the apostle Paul as he followed His example. The words which are presented in each of these chapters not only describes the Lord Jesus as the ultimate example of sacrifice and offering but also how the apostle Paul followed in the footsteps of his Lord. The apostle Paul considered his life as being the single greatest gift and offering with which to present unto the Lord and it was when writing unto the saints which were at Rome the apostle Paul besought them according to the mercies of the living God that they present their bodies as living sacrifices unto the Lord holy and acceptable unto Him. It is absolutely necessary we pay close attention to these words for they bring us face to face with the awesome and incredible truth of how the Lord Jesus was the ultimate example of sacrifice and offering and how the apostle Paul modeled his entire life after that example and even followed that example unto his own sacrifice, offering and death. There is a great need for us to recognize and understand the words which are found in the second and third chapters of the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Philippian saints for within that epistle we are brought face to face with the tremendous truth of the apostle Paul viewed his life as nothing more than a gift and offering with which to offer and present before and unto the living God and his Lord Jesus Christ. It is with this in mind I leave you first with the words found in the second and third chapter of this New Testament epistle written unto the Philippians—not only to encounter the tremendous example of the Lord Jesus and not only the example of the apostle Paul but also the clarion call that is given unto us that we might live our lives with the same purpose and resolve:
“If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory: but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and becamse obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:1-11).
“…Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing” (Philippians 3:4-16)