Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Friday, June 3, 2016

Mnason and the Refugee Crisis (Opportunity)

Paul is journeying back to Jerusalem: from Greece to Asia Minor, passed Lesbos to Miletus to Kos to Rhodes to Patara ... he is touring the Greek Isles on his way towards Syria and back to "The Promised Land" ... which is perhaps irrelevant except that many of these names are in the news daily right now as thousands travel hazardously and at great threat to their lives in the opposite direction from Syria towards the freedom of the perceived promised lands in the West ... in this past week some making the final stage of that journey across the dangerous and cold North Sea and landing in dinghies here on our beaches in Norfolk. You'll understand that I wondered whether Paul's journey in the opposite direction teaches us anything about those making the journey in this direction.

Well, let's see!

After we had torn ourselves away from them, we put out to sea and sailed straight to Kos. The next day we went to Rhodes and from there to Patara. 2 We found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, went on board and set sail. 3 After sighting Cyprus and passing to the south of it, we sailed on to Syria. We landed at Tyre, where our ship was to unload its cargo. 4 We sought out the disciples there and stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. 5 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. 6 After saying goodbye to each other, we went aboard the ship, and they returned home.

Last week we looked at the fact that Paul felt compelled by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem even as other Christians felt the same Spirit was compelling them to prevent Paul from the journey and we looked in a little detail at how God guides us by His Spirit. Paul pushes on towards Jerusalem.

7 We continued our voyage from Tyre and landed at Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and sisters and stayed with them for a day. 8 Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. 9 He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.

We've come across Philip before in Acts 8:40. That's 13 chapters back ... a period of almost 25 years that Philip’s evangelistic work has been focused on Caesarea. He has 4 unmarried daughters who are described as prophets and who seem to have been dedicated in a special way to serving the Lord in the way described in Corinthians ( 1Co 7:34).The fact that his daughters prophesied throws interesting light on the ministry of gifted women, as prophecy is, by definition, a public ministry. Paul's letter to the Corinthians supports the view that such gifted women had more than a merely domestic ministry in apostolic times.  The church historian Eusebius, quoting an Ephesian church leader from the second century, reports that Philip later moved with his daughters to Hierapolis in Asia Minor (near Colosse and Laodicea). Two of the daughters never married and remained in Hierapolis until their deaths; another daughter “lived in the Holy Spirit and rests in Ephesus.” The fact that Philip’s daughters prophesy further demonstrates the fulfillment of Joel 2:28 (“your sons and your daughters will prophesy”) that Peter quoted in his message on the day of Pentecost nearly twenty-five years earlier. Women continued to exercise prophetic gifts, which Paul encouraged as seen in the church at Corinth (1 Cor. 11:5) where he writes that when they prophesy or pray in the church they should wear hats. These daughters of Philip's follow in a long line of women prophets some of whom prophesied in the Temple like Anna in Luke's gospel (Lk 2:36) and others who prophesied in the same way as the OT male prophets: Miriam Ex 15:20; Deborah Jdg 4:4; Huldah 2Ki 22:14; Noadiah Ne 6:14; and of course Isaiah's wife, who was also a prophet Isa 8:3

10 After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, ‘The Holy Spirit says, “In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.”’

This is the same prophet who had been in Antioch prophesying the coming famine in Jerusalem some 15 years earlier (11:27–29). Notice that he doesn't prophesy that Paul shouldn't go to Jerusalem, he prophesies that persecution and imprisonment awaits Paul in Jerusalem. For Paul of course "to live is Christ and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21).

12 When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul answered, ‘Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’ 14 When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, ‘The Lord’s will be done.’

That's all we really ever want, isn't it? .... The Lord's will be done.

15 After this, we started on our way up to Jerusalem. 16 Some of the disciples from Caesarea accompanied us and brought us to the home of Mnason, where we were to stay. He was a man from Cyprus and one of the early disciples.

Mnason is my real focus this evening ... ever heard of him?

The group travels to the home of an apparently wealthy Jerusalem believer named Mnason. I say wealthy because he has a house sufficiently large enough to accommodate Paul’s entourage of nine plus some from Caesarea. His Greek name means "a diligent seeker" and it seems that his name is a shortened and Greek form of the Jewish name Menahem or Manasseh. Mnason came from the island of Cyprus (like Barnabas) and is most definitely a Jew.

This is what I like about him and what I sense is relevant for us in these times of feelings running high on the subject of immigration and discrimination. Mnason receives Paul and his entourage. He is strong enough in his faith not to worry about opening his home up to Gentiles from Macedonia and Asia Minor and face the dangers, from a Jewish perspective, of ritual impurity, but his commitment to Christ has given him a new perspective on Gentiles. Now this has come up before in this series  through Acts, but I emphasise it again. Jewish converts to Christianity remained Jews. We will see in the next chapter that Paul performs a Jewish purification rite in the Temple, just as we saw a few weeks ago how Paul shaved his head in keeping with a Jewish custom. Jewish Mnason is strong enough in his faith not to worry about opening his home up to Gentiles from Macedonia and Asia Minor and face the dangers, from a Jewish perspective, of ritual impurity, because his commitment to Christ has given him a new perspective on Gentiles. Has Jesus given you a new perspective regarding the gentiles fleeing the very lands that the Apostle Paul traveled through and evangelised. Whether Christian or not ... are those thousands our brothers and sisters ... and if you struggle to see them as brothers and sisters, are they your neighbour perhaps "Who is my neighbour?" an expert in the law once asked Jesus because he wanted to justify his discrimination (Luke 10:25-37) and Jesus answers with the parable of the Good Samaritan ... to a Jew there was no such thing as a good Samaritan. In Jerusalem of all places, Mnason opens his home to uncircumcised gentiles! Who do we need to open our homes to? Who do we perhaps need to stop discriminating against? Among the people that in the next few weeks David and Maureen's team is going to visit are the Roma, sometimes called Gypsies ... a people who experience discrimination wherever they find themselves.

Why does Mnason open his home to these barbarians, why does he refuse to discriminate against anyone? Plain and simply because he was "one of the early disciples" (21:16).

This can be viewed one of three ways:
(1) He is one of the disciples of Jesus during his earthly ministry and may have been one of the 120 in 1:15;
(2) he is one of the early converts of the preaching of the apostles in Jerusalem; or
(3) he is one of the converts of Paul and Barnabas in their missionary journey to Cyprus.

One of the first two options is most likely, but be that as it may be, my point is that being a disciple changes you. Being committed to the path of Christian discipleship changes you.

Tonight I want to close with a question followed by a statement. They are purposely provocative and I ask you to think and reflect on them before reacting to them.

Mnason was a disciple and I believe the world, our continent, our country, our city, needs more disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Are you a disciple, a disciple, of the Lord Jesus Christ?

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