Acts 17:5-9: Backlash.

“5 But other Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the market-place, 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.[a] 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 put Jason and the others on bail and let them go. ” NIV UK

It is clear that the Kingdom of God advanced significantly in Thessalonica as a result of Paul and Silas’ ministry. However, the intrepid missionaries quickly felt the full force of a backlash. Persecution came in the wake of progress. These preachers found themselves facing jealousy similar to that experienced by our Lord (5). In every generation it’s not difficult to engage the services of a ‘rent a mob’. The only reward certain types need is the offer of a punch-up; they’re angry and thrive on violence:

‘’Mad with jealousy, they rounded up a bunch of brawlers off the streets and soon had an ugly mob terrorising the city as they hunted down Paul and Silas’’ (5a) The Message.

As I reflected on this story, I couldn’t help but try to imagine how utterly terrifying it must have been for Jason and his family:

‘’They broke into Jason’s house, thinking that Paul and Silas were there. When they couldn’t find them, they collared Jason and his friends instead and dragged them before the city fathers, yelling hysterically…’’ (5b,6a) The Message.

When you welcome the gospel into your home (7a) you open the door to trouble. At the end of today’s passage, Jason ‘’and some other brothers’’ (6) went bail for Paul and Silas. They posted a bond, guaranteeing that the preachers would never again set foot in the city. If Paul and Silas were to turn up again, Jason and his fellow-believers would forfeit their bond (see 1 Thessalonians 2:17-18).

The main charge laid at the door of the preachers was that they had turned the world ‘upside down’. David Pawson has pointed out that in reality they were turning it the right way up! But men, with their inverted values, see it otherwise. Like Jesus, Paul and Silas suffered because of the jealousy of others; like their Lord, they were falsely accused:

‘’These people are out to destroy the world, and now they’ve shown up on our doorstep, attacking everything we hold dear! And Jason is hiding them, these traitors and turncoats who say Jesus is king and Caesar is nothing!’’ (6b,7) The Message.

The actual truth is that Christians, then and now, try to be good citizens of whichever land they live in; they seek to be loyal subjects. However, if push comes to shove; if they should ever have to choose between human emperor or King Jesus, they will go with their highest allegiance. So the church, when true to her nature, is counter-cultural. She swims against the tide; and this fact regularly lands her in a lot of bother.

Despite rocky beginnings, the church in Thessalonica thrived and proved a great source of joy to Paul (see 1 Thessalonians 1:6-10). The church is God’s and He will take care of it; He does look after it. It is not dependent on any man. Jesus is building HIS church, and it should give us great confidence and encouragement that it is so.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, thank you that the church is in your Hands and not mine.