When Paul and his companions had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,” he said. Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women.
But other Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other believers before the city officials, shouting: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.” When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil. Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go.
As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.
But when the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God at Berea, some of them went there too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up. The believers immediately sent Paul to the coast, but Silas and Timothy stayed at Berea. Those who escorted Paul brought him to Athens and then left with instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible. Acts 17:1-15
This chapter begins with a whirlwind of activity and it’s swarming with characters. Take a moment to observe all the characters in this first scene. We have leading characters like Paul and Silas bringing forth a message of Jesus’ death and resurrection, but also find many sideline characters such as the curious Jews, devout Greeks, leading ladies, jealous Jews, wicked men, swindler types, mean mobsters, as well as Jason and a few of his brothers. Not to mention the crowds and the city authorities who were quite disturbed by that day’s traumatic event.
Luke seems to highlight a stark contrast between the overwhelming number of “bad characters” (poneros) in Thessalonica with the number of “noble characters” (eugenes) in Berea. Berea was swarming with a whole different genre of characters. They were of nobility yet they were also noble-minded, ready to receive words of truth with eagerness and willing to examine new ideas with careful attention. And that day resulted in many Berean men and women filled with faith.
Good stories usually involve both heroic and villainous characters. In today’s reading, it’s interesting how those with good quality character are noble in all senses of the word while those society knows to be swindlers and of bad nature are called upon to create a scene resulting in bad qualities of disorder and dissension.
Where would you be in this story? If you heard new ideas about someone rising from the dead how would you have first responded? Spend some time sharing your thoughts with Jesus and ask him what he has to say about your character.
By Yvonne Biel