Reading Luke and Acts in 2020
Week 44 | Acts 20
Acts 20 Reflections and Questions
By Rev. Dr. Juan Quintanilla
The Journey continues ...
The Apostle Paul in this chapter is in the middle of his third missionary journey.
For historical context, Paul was in Antioquia, then he said, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” (Acts 15:36). So Paul took Timothy as a collaborator and began the third missionary journey.
Paul was setting off to visit all the churches that he planted. Paul's mindset is to help the church in Jerusalem so he traveling to encourage the churches and to gather the offerings to help the Christian communities who were facing famine in Jerusalem.
The passage can be divided into three sections, 20:1-6, 7-12, and 13-38. We can see gifts in Paul as he shows up in ministry to the different churches on this journey.
The gift of encouragement - verses 20:1-6
Paul knew that the churches in Asia were living difficult times. Hostilities not only came from Jews but by the gentiles. So Paul, as a good shepherd, was there to offer them abundant comfort and encouragement to keep the faith in the midst of adversity and continue to live as disciples. To live a new life in a world with different values was not easy.
A second gift that I can see in this passage is the gift of having a team. Paul is not alone in this mission. I can count 9 people from different places working with him. It brings to my mind the saying “Many hands make light the work."
The more people work together on something, the quicker and easier it will be to finish. This is Paul's theology of the body the Christ and its diversity of parts and functions with a vision to accomplish the mission. An addition to this journey was to collect an offering to deal with the famine of Jerusalem.
Another gift that Paul had was the gift of writing. Paul was a prolific writer. He intended to go by ship to Syria and then go on to Jerusalem, but some Jews had a plot to get him, so Paul had to change plans. He departed to Macedonia and then Greece. It appears when he was in Macedonia he wrote his second letter to the Corinthians and he wrote the Epistle to Romans when he was visiting Corinth.
Dealing with an unexpected accident - Verses 7-12
Paul took the time to have communion with a group in Troas, and then he shared a long message. A young man named Eutychus was overcome by sleep and fell from the third-floor window and he died. Paul embraced him he said, “Do not be troubled, he is alive.” After Eutychus’ fall, the well-being of Eutychus was Paul’s priority. People's well-being is more important than words. But after the incident, Paul continues sharing the message as if nothing happened.
What Paul shared with the leaders of Ephesus Church is like a living epistle to them - Verses 13-38
Paul declared that he was heading to Jerusalem and he will face uncertainty when he arrives. He commented that he had visions from the Holy Spirit that he would be imprisoned and may face death when he arrived. However, he stated that his main goal, his priority in life, was to spread the kingdom of God and the whole gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ as the Messiah. He was not concerned about his temporary mortal life, as he wrote in the letter to Philippians.
He told the Elders and his disciples that it was possible that they may never see him again, but to keep their faith in the midst of difficulties and adversity. He warned them of false teachers and prophets that may attempt to mislead them. He ended with a tearful farewell as he told them to continue sharing the word of God.
Questions to thinks about:
What does it mean for you to be on a missionary journey? What are some of the challenges that you are facing on your journey? If you write a letter/Epistle to the United Methodist denomination today, what will you write? How do you encourage the members to keep their faith in these pandemic times? Why was Paul's passion for mission more important than his life? What are your priorities?
Rev. Dr. Juan Quintanilla serves as Associate Pastor at Norcross First UMC and as a Consultant for Hispanic Ministry for the North Georgia Conference.