Summary: In Acts 19-21 we see Paul intent on returning to Jerusalem, even ignoring Holy Spirit inspired warnings. What was his rationale?
In his 2005 song by the same name, Bon Jovi asks the question:
“Who says you can't go home?
Who says you can't go back?
I been all around the world and as a matter of fact
There's only one place left I wanna go
Who says you can't go home?”
Well, actually many people have said it through the years.
Probably what most people think of, is the title of a novel written by Thomas Wolfe, that simply says, “You can't go home again.”
John Steinbeck expanded on that when he wrote, “You can't go home again because home has ceased to exist except in the mothballs of memory.”
Lauren Oliver explains, “The reason you can never go home again isn't necessarily that places change, but people do. So nothing ever looks the same.”
And according to Aleksandar Hemon that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, “If you can't go home, there is nowhere to go, and nowhere is the biggest place in the world-indeed, nowhere is the world.”
One of my favourite songs is one I discovered while living in Australia and the lyrics go like this:
I've been around the world
A couple of times or maybe more
I've seen the sights, I've had delights
On every foreign shore
But when my mates all ask me
The place that I adore
I tell them right away
Give me a home among the gumtrees
With lots of plum trees
A sheep or two, a k-kangaroo
A clothesline out the back
Verandah out the front
And an old rocking chair
And I’m sure that Paul kind of felt that way, well maybe not with the Kangaroos, but about going home.
This summer our preaching theme has been: Asking For a Friend. And the staff has take the time to answer questions that the Cornerstone family submitted anonymously online.
This morning the question we are going to take a stab at is: How did Paul justify his insistence on continuing on toward Jerusalem, in Acts 20 and 21, despite continual warnings by the Holy Spirit of what he would face when he got there -- including a very graphic Old-Testament style warning by Agabus in Chapter 21?
Paul had been all over the known world on what are often referred to as his missionary journeys and now the time has come to return to Jerusalem. And he seems fairly passionate about going home.
We read in Acts 20:16 For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he might not have to spend time in Asia; he was eager to be in Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost.
When we first hear about Paul’s desire to be in Jerusalem for Passover he is in the city of Miletus, which, 2000 years ago was considered a Greek city but is actually located in what we know call Turkey. And it was a little over 1800 kms from Jerusalem if you were to travel by land, but Paul chose to go by water, he had obviously remembered from school that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points.
So, if we pull up one of our trusty maps, this is where Paul’s journey home begins, in Miletus, and we are told that they boarded a ship and sailed to Syria. It was there that they stayed in the city of Tyre for seven days with other believers.
When we travelled in Australia as a family, we usually stayed with other Christians that we knew, some of those folks we only knew casually and sometimes we even stayed with folks that we only knew through their family. But I digress.
It is here that we read the first warning that Paul receives about his trip to Jerusalem. Acts 21:4 We looked up the disciples and stayed there for seven days. Through the Spirit they told Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. However the warning doesn’t seem to make much of an impact on Paul because in the very next verse we read. Acts 21:5 When our days there were ended, we left and proceeded on our journey;. . .
It was as Paul continues on his journey to Jerusalem that he ends up in the community of Caesarea and there that he meets a prophet by the name of Agabus. And it’s here the story takes a bizarre turn, let’s pick things us in Acts 21:10-12 While we were staying there for several days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. He came to us and took Paul's belt, bound his own feet and hands with it, and said, "Thus says the Holy Spirit, 'This is the way the Jews in Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.'" When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem.