15.JERUSALEM: A LEADER OF THE CHURCHES
Paul returned for the third time to Jerusalem to give a complete report to the Elders about his mission among the pagans. He brought with him a delegation of people representing the Churches he had founded, largely pagan Christians but also Jewish disciples such as Timothy. He became the acknowledged head (1Cor 12-14) of a group of local communities which were in conflict with the synagogues and were leading an autonomous existence within the pagan communities. He gave them the name of Church, according to the tradition of Deuteronomy, claiming for each one the dignity of assembly of people chosen by God and reserved first and foremost for the Church in Jerusalem. Paul exercised the authority of an Apostle of Jesus Christ (1 Cor 1:21; 2Cor 1:1) a title to which he remained very attached.
But then, in the capital of the Jewish world and in the presence of the Church of Jerusalem led by James where ‘thousands of Jews had come to the faith,’ he was called to demonstrate his fidelity to the Fathers. He had written to the Corinthians ‘I became all things to all men’ (1 Cor 9:22) and so he went to the Temple with a group of Nazarenes to be purified so ‘everyone will know..that you live in accordance with the Law of Moses.’ It was here that he was arrested.
16.ARREST IN THE TEMPLE OF JERUSALEM
Everything was set for this explosion: the fear raised by Paul’s preaching in the synagogues and the development of this Christianity which threatened the structures and the laws. An incident blew up as Paul arrived at the Temple on the seventh and last day of his purification – maybe because he was accompanied by a non-Jewish Greek man, thus profaning the sanctuary? Some Jews from Asia Minor recognised him and inflamed the crowd: he was thrown out of the Temple.
Paul escaped death there thanks to the arrival of a commander with some soldiers and he talked to them again. ‘He stood on the steps..and when they were quiet Paul spoke to them in Hebrew.’ He explained his dedication as a Jew who studied under Gamaliel, then his blinding encounter on the road to Damascus which dominates and inspires his life. Then, in front of the Jews in Jerusalem, he added, ‘while I was praying in the Temple I had a vision in which I saw the Lord as he said to me “Hurry and leave Jerusalem quickly because the people here will not accept your witness about me.”’ And again: ‘I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’ These last words provoked another uproar from the crowd: it meant that in effect, the Covenant made by God with the children of Israel was open to everyone.
HIS TIME IN JAIL AND HIS TRIALS: JERUSALEM,
- Paul is taken to the fortress in Jerusalem but avoids being whipped because he is a Roman citizen: first trial by the Council/Sanhedrin
- Following a plot by Jewish Zealots who want to kill him, Paul is transferred to Caesarea: second trial before the governor Felix (57-59 AD)
- Third trial by his successor Festus two years later
- Fourth trail before Agrippa II: ‘This man has not done anything for which he should die or be put in prison....He could have been released if he had not appealed to Caesar.’