He Brought Greeks Into the Temple!Fr. Barnabas Powell
What were these people doing sitting in our pew?!?! I could see it on their faces. A new family visiting the parish for the first time had sat down in an area where a long time member of the parish had sat “forever!” They even had a plaque at the end of the pew announcing that their family had donated the money for this pew years ago! And now “these people” were sitting in their spot! Oh, the horror, the shame, the unmitigated gall!
Of course, they were too polite to actually say anything, but try as she might, the wife of the offended couple simply couldn’t keep herself from grimacing at the visiting couple as she and her husband went to sit elsewhere. I confess to feeling a perverse sense of satisfaction at their struggle. But I quickly repented!
Look at our lesson today in Acts 21:26-32:
IN THOSE DAYS, Paul took the men, and the next day he purified himself with them and went into the temple, to give notice when the days of purification would be fulfilled and the offering presented for every one of them. When the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia, who had seen him in the temple, stirred up all the crowd, and laid hands on him, crying out, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who is teaching men everywhere against the people and the law and this place; moreover he also brought Greeks into the temple, and he has defiled this holy place.” For they had previously seen Trophimos the Ephesian with him in the city, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple. Then all the city was aroused, and the people ran together; they seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and at once the gates were shut. And as they were trying to kill him, word came to the tribune of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion. He at once took soldiers and centurions, and ran down to them; and when they saw the tribune and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.
Paul has returned to Jerusalem to preach the Faith, and, while there, he and some brothers went to the Temple for a Jewish rite of purification which meant special prayers, physical washings, and offerings for seven days. Paul was not unknown in Jerusalem. In fact, you may remember it was Paul (then called “Saul”) that gave his blessing to the stoning of the very first Christian martyr, the deacon St. Stephen. So, Paul was well known here, and the news of his conversion to the very Church he once persecuted was also becoming well known. Some of the Jews from Asia saw Paul and his companions and immediately tried to stir up trouble for Paul by accusing him of defiling the Temple by bringing Greeks (that is, pagans and non-Jews) into the Temple!
Of course, the “police” showed up before the mob could actually beat Paul to death.
But notice, St. Paul was actually participating in a Jewish rite of purification for the expressed purpose of showing that he didn’t reject his past as much as see all the promises God made to the Jews fulfilled in Christ. He wasn’t trying to start trouble, but neither was he going to stop preaching the Truth in Christ even if it did cause trouble. And notice what stirred up the crown there near the Temple! The only thing these enemies of Paul had to say was that Paul had brought “strangers” (Greeks) into the Holy Place. The faith of the Temple had become so insular, so cut off from its original intent, that the very people the Faith was meant to reach and to embrace, were not allowed to be anywhere near the place where the Truth was supposed to be share with all. As the Greeks say, ντροπη! (That means “shame!)
Today, are you willing to face the disdain and rejection of others who no longer hold to the original intent of the Faith to share this Faith with others who may not be part of the “accepted group?” Are you struggling when people who don’t share your same background long to be included in the Orthodox Church? Are you and your parish ready to be Orthodox on Purpose?
P.S. Have you checked out the latest news about our video series “A Journey to Fullness?” We are working hard this Summer to finish this project in time for a Fall release. Our design team has almost completed the work and our writing team is almost finished with the Student workbook to accompany the videos! Just go to JourneytoFullness.com and stay on top of all the news!