Wednesday after the Second Sunday after Trinity Sunday
Scripture: Acts 17:1-15 (NKJV)
1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.” 4 And some of them were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas.
5 But the Jews who were not persuaded, becoming envious, took some of the evil men from the marketplace, and gathering a mob, set all the city in an uproar and attacked the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. 6 But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too. 7 Jason has harbored them, and these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king—Jesus.” 8 And they troubled the crowd and the rulers of the city when they heard these things.
9 So when they had taken security from Jason and the rest, they let them go. 10 Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. 12 Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men. 13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was preached by Paul at Berea, they came there also and stirred up the crowds. 14 Then immediately the brethren sent Paul away, to go to the sea; but both Silas and Timothy remained there. 15 So those who conducted Paul brought him to Athens; and receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him with all speed, they departed.
Athens was a great and glorious city. It had had its greatest days some five hundred years earlier, but it was still marvelous for its art and architecture, its philosophy and literature. It must have been an impressive place to see at that time. But as with any great and beautiful scene, when it is dominated by unbelief and false religion, it leaves a sour taste in one’s mouth. Like the national cathedral in Washington, or the Uppsala cathedral in Sweden, or the Berlin Cathedral.
Perhaps Paul toured the great city when he first got there, as any of us would. He saw all the beauty of the city, but noticed that it was virtually smothered in idols. The Roman satirist, Petronius, said, “in Athens it was easier to find a god than a man.” Paul was “greatly distressed” by what he saw. That is, he abhorred the idolatry he saw. His spirit was stirred to jealousy, jealousy for God’s Name. He was disturbed and revolted by the lies and the darkness that masqueraded as truth and glory.
Are we ever distressed to see the idolatry in our own cities? Paul did not see the various expressions of religion as equally valid. He didn’t look at the Greek Olympian gods as just the Greek way of expressing the essence of truth. Jesus did not take up residence in one of the temples of Athens. Jesus was above every other god. Jesus destroys every other god.
Lord, help us to care enough to be roused to indignity at the idolatry and falseness of our modern world. And, help us to see Jesus as our ultimate answer to that falseness. Amen.