Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus to avoid spending time in the province of Asia, for he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost. From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. When they arrived, he said to them: “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents. You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. – Acts 20:16-21
Quite a few things have happened since Paul and Silas were in prison and decided to stay so that the guard and his family could learn the Good News of the Gospel. There was an interesting interlude a few chapters ago when a sleepy student of Paul and Silas fell out of a window and needed to be resurrected, but this passage finds Paul in Jerusalem, the city of David.
For some reason Paul sailed past Ephesus without visiting the believers there. The explanation he provides is that he wanted to arrive in Jerusalem for the commemoration of Pentecost the day the Holy Spirit was poured into the followers. It seems like Paul wants to connect with followers in Ephesus but he does not want to go out of his way too much. Perhaps Paul and these other early Christian leaders still have some things to learn about leadership and humility.
When the believers from Ephesus arrived Paul recounts how he had served with “humility and tears” in the midst of testing. The testing is primarily coming at the hands of “Jewish opponents”. Tears often represent samples of our souls and reveal what is going on inside in a way that words can sometimes hide, especially in someone like Paul who is a trained orator.
Paul’s statement leaves me wondering what was causing his tears. Was he frustrated with the religious leaders and their stubborn resistance the Good News? Was he sad about the conflicts between early believers? Was he remorseful that he invested so much of his energy and soul fighting against the One he now loves and is representing? Is he lamenting the lack of “lessons by the lake” that all the other disciples received from Jesus personally? Sorry no great answers only questions, but let’s push on through this stretch of water and see what else God has to reveal.
Paul acknowledges that his teaching and sharing has come with a healthy dose of humility. This learned man has been required to acknowledge that he does not know everything, especially about God. He must rely on the Holy Spirit and other believers to fill in these gaps in knowledge which requires humility on his part. As an ostensibly learned man myself this realization and rebuke hits home. We all have so much to learn from one another and God as we journey through this land of Oblivion.
Prayer: God help us to approach You and one another with humility and grace.