29 May 2020Acts 20:17-24
And now, as a captive to the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there … but I do not count my life of any value to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God’s grace. (vs. 22, 24)
Psalm: Psalm 51
It is a good idea to get the geography right here – Miletus was an important city about thirty miles or so from Ephesus and should not be confused (as can easily be done) with Melita, which was an early name for the island of Malta. Paul was anxious to get to Jerusalem as quickly as possible and, in terms of his onward journey, it made sense for the Ephesian leaders to come to him at Miletus rather than for him to go to them at Ephesus.
Note the resonances between this passage and Luke’s account of Jesus setting out for Jerusalem (Luke 9:51; see also Mark 10:32-34 and Matthew 16:21). Though Jesus knew very well what would happen to him there, Paul was not sure of what might happen to him. What he did know, however, was that, even if his life was in jeopardy, he too would be fulfilling the call of God on his life. His words echo those of Jesus in his High Priestly prayer the night before he died (John 17:4) as he recognised that the work his Father had given him to do had been completed. This is Paul’s prayer for himself.
Note how Paul outlined how he had worked among the Ephesians – he had endured significant opposition from some among the Jewish community (verse 19); he had preached the gospel both in public places and in homes (verse 20); he had opened the faith both to his own community and to those outside it (verse 21). And this was the time to move on, to go to Jerusalem. Clearly Paul saw this journey to Jerusalem as something of a culmination of his ministry (verses 22-24), but there may also have been a practical reason. Writing to the Christian community in Rome, he commented on the need to deliver a collection of money for the poor in Jerusalem, contributed by communities elsewhere (Romans 15:25-27). The proclamation of the good news asked for practical outworking, then as now.
- How does it feel when something into which you have put everything you’ve got comes to an end? How do you cope with endings?
- There are many ways of ministry in the Christian life – how do you express your faith and your love of God?