Paul now leaves the elders of Ephesus behind on the beach at Miletus to continue his journey to Jerusalem, to be there for the Feast of Pentecost.
This marks a great turn in Paul’s ministry life. He is no longer going to be directly involved in planting and nurturing churches. It does not mean that his work is finished, it means his work is changing. A transition in ministry life is often a very difficult season. Walking from the known, (no matter how difficult,) to the unknown can be very unsettling.
We’re not really sure what Paul had in his mind as he headed up to Jerusalem for the final time in his life. We do know he felt compelled by the Holy Spirit to do so, and we also know he had been burdened by the Holy Spirit to provide an offering for the church at Jerusalem to help them in their struggles. We also know he sensed a great desire to go to Rome, to visit a church he had not personally founded, which would have been at the very center of the known world of the time. But what exactly, was Paul thinking?
After all, he would be warned at every step along the way of the trouble he was walking into. He seemed to understand this himself before anyone warned him. There was obviously great danger facing Paul at Jerusalem, and he knew it. How can we explain his willingness to go there, despite knowing, as he himself said, (Acts 20:22-23,) “that chains and tribulations await me?”
Imagine the difficulty of looking into the faces of those crying real tears for your future, sensing the love of those so greatly concerned for your life, and hearing their pleas with you not to go. All the while their tears joined with true prophecies of the tragedy that is about unfold in your life. What kind of fortitude is this Paul is demonstrating – and how can his ‘leaving the stage’ so to speak, be profitable for the early Church?
Interestingly, we get no answers to any of the questions we may form in our minds about Paul’s venture that would basically place him in prison the majority of the remainder of his life. It seems obvious he sensed this to be the case. Why would he go there?
We do remember that Jesus had told Ananias, (all the way back at the time of Paul’s salvation experience on the Damascus Road,) to go to Paul and tell him, (Acts 9:15-16,) “Go for he is a chosen vessel of Mine, to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.”
Well, Paul knew he had borne the name of Jesus before Gentiles and the children of Israel, (though he desired greater opportunity to reach the latter,) but he had never had the opportunity to witness for the Lord Jesus Christ before kings. From prison, he would.