Acts 20:13 through 22:29
Suggested Emphasis: Having courage to do the right thing
As he completes his 3rd Missionary Journey Paul is now compelled by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem. Stopping to farewell churches along the way to say his farewells Paul is determined to make it to Jerusalem before Pentecost. In Caesarea, near Jerusalem, a man named Agabus prophesied that the Jews in Jerusalem would harm Paul if he went there and this is indeed what happened. He was wrongly accused and imprisoned. Despite all of this Paul continues to preach about Jesus.
This 3rd Missionary Journey had begun, as usual, in Antioch. Travelling over land Paul passed through places where he had established churches on his 1st Missionary Journey and 2nd Missionary Journey before arriving in Ephesus and staying for over 2 years. This 3rd Journey took Paul through Macedonia and Greece. From there he retraced his steps part of the way before making a notable stop in Troas (where young Eutychus falls from a window). Today’s lesson begins immediately following Paul’s time in Troas.
“And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there.” Acts 20:22 NIV
The reading today could be divided into two main parts: on the way to Jerusalem and in Jerusalem. Here is a simple outline:
- On the way to Jerusalem (Acts 20:13-21:14)
–Farewell to Ephesian Elders (20:17-28)
–Other stops and farewells along the way (21:1-6)
–In Caesarea with Philip and Agabus (21:7-14)
- In Jerusalem (Acts 21:15-22:29)
–Taking advice from Christians there (21:15-25)
–Angry mob leads to arrest -includes Paul’s sermon (21:26-22:22)
–Paul’s treatment as a prisoner (22:23-29)
On the Way to Jerusalem:
Quickly travelling through Assos, Mitylene, Kios, Samos and sailing past Ephesus Paul arrived in Miletus. From there he sent for the Ephesian elders. In this very emotional meeting he encouraged and instructed them on how to keep watch over their “flock” (congregations) . He tells them that he will not see them again and that he is “compelled by the Spirit” to go to Jerusalem.
Other stops along the way were Cos, Rhodes, Patara, Phoenicia. The ship sailed by Cyprus and stopped in Tyre before landing in Ptolemais. There were many “goodbyes” in these stops and children can relate to what this is like. Acts 21:5-6 specifically mentions children standing on the beach saying goodbye to Paul.
When it was time to leave, we left and continued on our way. All of them, including wives and children, accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray. After saying goodbye to each other, we went aboard the ship, and they returned home. Acts 21:5-6 NIV
They stayed in the house of Philip, the evangelist. Philip was the one who baptised the Ethiopian Eunuch and the last verse of Acts 8 might indicate that he had stayed in the area of Caesarea since that time.
It was here at Philip’s house that a prophet named Agabus came from Judea and prohesied to Paul both in words and by acting it out. This was not the first time they had met. Fifteen years earlier, while at the Antioch church, Agabus’ prophecy of a famine resulted in Paul and Barnabas being sent by the Antioch church to take a gift to the Christians living in Judea (Acts 11:27-30). Now, here they are together again in Judea with Agabus prophesying. Agabus used Paul’s belt to tie up his hands and feet. The prophecy was that the Jews in Jerusalem would also tie Paul up.
Despite their pleading, Paul continued. Some disciples from Caesarea accompanied Paul on the 100 kilometre (62 mile) trek to Jerusalem and took him to stay in the home of a man called Mnason (from Cyprus).
The day after arriving in Jerusalem Paul went to see James and met with all the elders in Jerusalem. This James is the brother of Jesus and the author of the New Testament book of James, not one of the original 12 Apostles.
Although Paul’s mission to teach the Gentiles was clear it was always a point of contention between both Christian and non-Christian Jews. The non-Christian Jews would often try to use Paul’s association with Gentiles against him. Even Christian Jews sometimes had a hard time accepting that Gentiles could become Christians without being Jews too. The elders asked Paul to join in a purification right at the Jewish temple to show all the Jews that he was not an enemy of the Jews. Paul participated in the 7 day custom because he loved the Jewish people and wanted all of them to obey God and follow God’s Son, Jesus. Paul is quite clear in his other writings about living under the new law and not the old (Galatians 3:23-25, among others). This vow was most likely a personal voluntary vow as in Numbers 6:2-12 and not a requirement of the law.
False rumours by the Jewish leaders about Paul defiling the temple led to an angry mob beating Paul. A commander of Roman troops saw the crowd getting out of control and rushed in to see what was happening. After arresting him the commander allowed Paul to address the crowd. Paul told the crowd about his conversion but when he again brought up teaching Gentiles the crowd became furious.
The Commander ordered Paul flogged (whipped) but, when Paul revealed his Roman citizenship, everything stopped. Roman citizens had special rights and the commander did not want to get in trouble with the Roman government. He wanted to find out exactly why the Jews were accusing Paul so he arranged a meeting the next day with the Jewish leaders.
These transitional events mark the end of Paul’s 3rd Missionary Journey. Paul had completed his visits to churches.
From this time through the rest of the Book of Acts Paul is headed toward one destination, Rome.
- What happened before this story?
- What happens after this story?
- List of all Bible stories and themes on this website.
Way to Introduce the Story:
Who do you know who is brave? (let them answer). What does it mean when a person is brave? What about a fireman that goes into a burning building to rescue someone who is inside? Would he have to be brave? Today we are going to learn about someone in the bible who was very brave. Many people told Paul it was dangerous to go to the city of Jerusalem but the Holy Spirit told him to do the brave thing and go. What do you think Paul chose to do? Let’s find out…
(Teacher Note: This story is quite long and could actually be divided into two lessons. Part one could cover Paul’s trip to Jerusalem and part two could be about what happened in Jerusalem. In particular, if you are teaching younger children I would suggest choosing only one part of the story to concentrate on.)
Paul was a missionary who travelled to many places teaching people about Jesus. Paul wanted everyone to know that Jesus had died on the cross for them and that he had risen from the dead.
Paul’s 3rd Missionary Journey had started in Antioch and he had travelled all the way to Greece and even Corinth telling people about God and Jesus.
But God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit always agree and they had a plan for where Paul would go next. Paul knew that it was time to go to Jerusalem and began the long trip.
As he travelled the Holy Spirit also began warning Paul that going to Jerusalem meant that he would have many hardships and even go to prison. Paul knew that obeying God sometimes means that we have to do very difficult things. But, even though it would be difficult, Paul listened to the Holy Spirit and obeyed God’s plans.
Paul wanted to get to Jerusalem before the special celebration called Pentecost so he travelled quickly. Sometimes he walked but most of the time he sailed with his friends on a ship.
But even though he was in a hurry he sent word for some of his friends from Ephesus to meet him in a place along the way called Miletus.
These friends were elders and Paul told them to always take care of the church in Ephesus. It was their responsibility to be leaders and always help people follow Jesus.
After they had prayed together Paul told them goodbye. The elders did not want Paul to leave and go to Jerusalem. Especially when he told them that there would be dangers there and that he would never see him again.
But Paul continued on his journey. When the ship stopped in the city of Tyre Paul visited the disciples there. As he left the men, women and children in the church walked with Paul all the way to the beach and prayed with him before he got back on the ship.
Eventually, Paul’s ship docked in the city of Caesarea. Paul met with the Christians there and stayed in the home of Philip, the evangelist.
A prophet called Agabus also lived in Caesarea. When Agabus heard that Paul wanted to go to Jerusalem he acted out a prophecy to show Paul the future. He took Paul’s belt and tied it around his hands and feet.
Then he said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’”
When the others heard this try tried to persuade Paul not to go to Jerusalem. But Paul knew what he must do. Even though there was danger he would go where the Holy Spirit was guiding him to go.
Paul had obeyed God and now God would use Paul in amazing new ways. Paul’s 3rd Missionary Journey had taken him to far away places but now it was time to go to Jerusalem and talk about God to the people there.
In Jerusalem James, the brother of Jesus, was a leader in the church. Paul told James and others in the church about his Missionary Journeys and how that both Jews and Gentiles had become followers of Jesus. James was happy to hear about Paul’s missionary work.
But there were many arguments and angry people in Jerusalem. James and the other Christians advised Paul that he should be careful to show that he respected the Jewish people. So Paul went to the temple and participated in a ceremony.
But some of the Jews got very angry and told lies about Paul. They said he had shown disrespect in the temple. A crowd gathered and they became so angry that they drug Paul out of the temple area and began to beat him.
When news reached the Roman commander that the city of Jerusalem was in an uproar he and his soldiers rushed in to stop the riot. The commander arrested Paul and put chains on him. The crowd was so angry and loud that the commander could not even hear Paul answer the questions. Finally, Paul was taken up the steps to the military barracks.
On the way into the barracks the commander allowed Paul to speak to the crowd one more time. At first everyone calmed down and listened. Paul told them all about how a miracle had happened to him and that he had become a follower of Jesus.
But when Paul said that Jesus had told him to go and teach the Gentiles about Jesus the crowd became angry all over again. They thought Jews were better than Gentiles. Some thought that Gentiles had to become Jews before they could follow God.
So Paul was taken into the barracks away from the crowd. The Roman soldiers were about to whip Paul but he said something that made them stop.
Paul said, “I am a Roman citizen.”
Everyone stopped what they were doing. There were very important laws about Roman citizens. Roman citizens were not supposed to be put in chains and beaten unless they had first had a fair trial. Soldiers could get in a lot of trouble if they did not obey the rules.
So the soldiers told the commander and the commander decided that Paul must have a chance to tell his side of the story. A time to meet was set up for the very next day.
Paul had shared the news of Jesus when he was a free man. Now he was going to be telling about Jesus when he was in prison. Paul had the courage to do what was right no matter where he was or who he was with.
So what about you and I? Do we have the courage to tell people about Jesus?
Ways to Tell the Story:
This story can be told using a variety of methods. Always remain true to the facts found in the Bible but help children connect to its meaning by using drama, visual aids, voice inflection, student interaction and/or emotion.
Click here to download the slideshow or click here to download the pictures to print. Each teacher is unique so only use the illustrations that best relate to the way YOU are telling the story in THIS lesson. Too many illustrations can be confusing so eliminate any that cover other stories or details you do not wish to emphasise in this lesson. As mentioned earlier this lesson is long enough to divide into two parts so you may choose to only show some of the illustrations each time.
Another option would be to show the following video.
- Even though people told Paul that there was much danger there, what city did Paul really want to go to? Jerusalem
- Why did the prophet, Agabus, use Paul’s belt to tie his own hands and feet? He was acting out the message: “the Holy Spirit says that the owner of the belt will be tied up by the Jews”.
- What did the Jews in Jerusalem say Paul was doing wrong? They said he was bringing Gentiles into the temple area where only Jews could go.
- Why did the Roman soldiers carry Paul to their barracks? To arrest him and save him from the angry mob of Jews who were trying to kill him.
- What did Paul do when he was on the steps of the soldiers’ barracks? He preached about Jesus.
- I’ve Got Peace Like a River Song
- Booster Song
- Potato Chip Song
- I Can Be a Missionary
- Refer to the Song Page on this website for more options.
Learning Activities and Crafts:
- Have the children role play waking up and getting ready to attend the Sunday morning worship assembly. The phone rings and the child answers it. The teacher or another child speaks as if on the other end of the line. This person is trying to convince the first child that he should do something else instead of attend worship. The first child chooses to do right in spite of opposition. Act this out a few times using different situations (friend, cousin, coach, or anyone could be ringing them.)
- Make a relief map of Paul’s Journeys featuring the place in today’s story. If you are studying about Paul’s journeys over a few lessons then you could add more details to the map each time you learn about another stop on the journey. Instructions on how to make a relief map at http://www.squidoo.com/salt-dough-maps
- If you are teaching a series of lesson about Paul then you might draw an outline of him on a large poster or paper and then add descriptive words about him each time you study a new lesson (printable picture here). Alternatively, you might draw a new outline shape of him each week on a whiteboard or even with a stick in the sand (if you are outside) and guide children in adding descriptive words or events inside the outlined shape as a review. Other lessons from the life of Paul are:
- Saul (Paul) Becomes a Christian
- Paul’s 1st Journey- Lystra
- Paul’s 2nd Journey-Macedonian Vision
- Lydia Becomes a Christian
- A Jailer Becomes a Christian
- The Noble Bereans
- Paul Preaches in Athens-Mars Hill
- Priscilla and Aquila
- Paul in Ephesus
- Eutychus Falls from a Window
- Paul Goes to Jerusalem
- Paul’s Nephew Uncovers a Plot
- Paul’s Trial
- Paul’s Shipwreck
- Paul Writes Letters from Prison
Check the Teaching Ideas page on this website for ideas that are adaptable to any lesson.
Other Online Resources:
- Colouring page and puzzle worksheets (Calvary Curriculum)
- A good selection of puzzles and games (gardenofpraise.com)
- Craft: Doorknob hanger (sundayschoolcrafts.net)
- Craft: Patterns and instructions for a boat and people (sundayschoolkids.com)
- Review: Create a “passport” that covers the life of Paul. Good visual ideas and activities. Could be split up to go with several lessons or taught all together as a review of previous lessons concerning Paul (kidsbibledebjackson.blogspot.co.nz)