Starting with the arrest of Paul in chapter 21, Luke has been steering his readers to a grand finale, where Paul will finally stand in front of the most powerful man in the world to give his testimony. The Apostle endured conspiracies against his life, corruption in government, and finally storms at sea to make it to Rome. Paul was willing to go through all this because he had a clear vision and purpose for his life and knew Rome was where God wanted him to be and the Emperor was who God wanted him to see.
But the conclusion Luke had been building towards is suddenly cut short with Paul under house arrest. We’re not told if he ever got the chance to defend his case before the Emperor, but we can be confident that he did since God said he would. Though exactly how it came about or what happened after is a mystery. There are traditions that say he was acquitted and then brought the Gospel to Spain, but Luke doesn’t confirm or deny it. He just closes his book with a cliffhanger.
So what are we to take away from this saga with the abrupt and unresolved ending and why would Luke decide to leave it the way he did?
Luke began the Book of Acts by reporting the last interactions Jesus had with his disciples before he ascended. He told them that they would be his witnesses in their local regions and then throughout the world. Luke then proceeded to show his readers how the disciples went about doing this. But he left his story open-ended, and he did all this for a reason.
The Acts of the Apostles is about how the disciples carried out the Great Commission and it is left unresolved because the story wasn’t supposed to end with Paul in Rome, it was supposed to progress with disciples continuing to fulfill the final instructions of Jesus. And it did. The reason you’re reading this now is that the witnessing has endured to this day. And it will continue so long as people like you and me keep spreading the Good News of the Kingdom of God.
So don’t worry about this cliffhanger. The final resolution will come when Jesus himself returns to see the fruit of his disciples’ labor and to establish the Kingdom they represent. Until then, we must maintain the work that was started in Christ and continued with his disciples. May the perseverance and commitment of Paul and the rest of the Apostles act as an example for you on your journey and encourage you to remain faithful in the advancement of the Great Commission.
Acts 21 focuses on Paul’s travel to Jerusalem and then getting arrested. I don’t have a lot to say about this chapter, as I don’t have personal experiences, or extra knowledge on Paul’s experiences in this chapter. I’ll share a couple points I found interesting though.
We see multiple examples that show us how some people wanted to learn from Paul and his companions. We read that they were received warmly (v. 17). Also, verse 1 says that they had to tear themselves away from the people to continue traveling. I pray that God will work through me when I teach about Him and that people will see Him in me and want to learn more.
Some people were not as fond of Paul and even tried to kill him. The mad mob dragged Paul out of the temple and cause such an uproar the authorities are called in and Paul is arrested by the commander of the Roman troops. At the end of the chapter, as Paul is being carried away he asks to speak to the crowd. Paul is granted permission and the last sentence of the chapter is, “When they were all silent, he said to them in Aramaic:”. I know that the chapter numbers and breaks were added later, but what a cliffhanger! Thankfully, we’re able to read on and see what he says. We don’t even have to wait a week, like we do for a TV show or longer for a movie sequel!
(Speaking of movies – there have been several movies made of Paul’s life. I encourage you to try one out. See how closely it follows with Scripture – the real story. )
We, like Paul, do not get to choose people’s reaction to hearing the good news. Some will gladly and thankfully accept the message and appreciate the messenger. Others, sadly will not. But, we, like Paul, have very good news to share. And even when it is not accepted as good news….and even when people mock us or persecute us….we have God’s Word to share.