Our first story begins with Paul and his companions, who had just come from Philippi. In fact, they had just gotten out of prison there and had been escorted out of the city by the officials. Their next stop was going to be Thessalonica, which was about 100 miles away. On their way there, they passed through a couple of cities, Amphipolis and Apollonia, staying at each only to spend the night before heading out the next morning.
When they arrived in Thessalonica, Paul began his usual routine of going to the local synagogue of the city. Why did he go there first? Take a look at verses 2 and 3…
As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures,  explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ,” he said.
Paul was a Jew. His heart was for his fellow Jews. He loved them. So even though he was called to be the Apostle to the Gentiles, he just couldn’t help himself. He would always go to his own people first. What did he do with them? He reasoned with them. He taught and preached from the Old Testament. He used it to explain and prove that Jesus was just who he said he was… and that the prophecies in the Old Testament were fulfilled in Christ.
Furthermore, he showed them that Christ had to suffer and die on the Cross for the sins of the world – but that he had to also rise from the dead for our salvation. Paul proclaimed that Jesus of Nazareth was no less than the Christ – the Messiah of God.
Beloved, this is the Gospel of Jesus Christ… the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. The Gospel first calls us to turn away from our own sin – our fallen, broken, and selfish thinking, desires, words, actions, and attitudes.
It also calls us to trust in Christ alone to forgive us, to save us, to heal us, to mend us, lead us, and to make us holy. That’s the Gospel… and that’s what Paul preached and taught in Thessalonica… and people responded. Take a look at verse 4…
Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women.
People responded. Lives were changed. Supernaturally speaking, disciples of Jesus Christ had been made.
But, as often is the case, some folks weren’t happy about this. In fact, where the Gospel is preached and where God is doing a great work of deliverance, there will often be opposition.
Take a look at verse 5…
But the Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd.
You see, the Jews weren’t at all happy about this work of Paul and company… nor the message they proclaimed. So they got the meanest, toughest, nastiest folks they could find to stir up trouble for Paul and Silas and their newest converts. Thessalonica was something of a harbor town. There were plenty of drifters roaming around the market place with a lot of time on their hands. It wouldn’t have been a great effort to round up and “encourage” some of these folks to cause a little trouble for Paul and company.
And that’s exactly what they did.
But there was a problem. Paul and Silas evidently got word of this and got out of there. And so the mob did the next best thing. They grabbed Jason and a few others. Jason was one of the converts who was hosting Paul and Silas. It seems that Jason and some of his new brothers in Christ were guilty by association.
At any rate, I’ve now arrived at the whole reason I chose this text. Let me read verse 6 for you…
But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other brothers before the city officials, shouting: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here,
Those who have “caused trouble all over the world”… have now come here.
That translation from the NIV is my least favorite. Here are a few other translations of that verse that help to capture what was being said…
These men who have upset the world have come here also; (NASB)
These people are out to destroy the world, and now they’ve shown up on our doorstep, attacking everything we hold dear! (The Message)
Here’s my favorite…
These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, (ESV and KJV)
What were they referring to? How could this little insignificant group of people do anything to the mighty Roman Empire? They weren’t even armed. Or were they?
They were indeed. They were armed with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which Paul tells us, is the power of God for the salvation for Jews and Gentiles alike. And everywhere that disciples of Jesus Christ went throughout the Roman Empire, both Jews and Gentiles were being transformed into what was sometimes called, “a third race”… new creatures in Christ. Their lives were changing. Their values were becoming different. Their new beliefs were colliding with their old beliefs.
They were upsetting the established comfort zone. The kingdom of this world was being turned upside down with the message and order of a new kingdom.
Look at the second part of verse 7…
“They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.”
Do you see what their accusers were doing? The same charge that was brought against our Lord Jesus – namely treason against Caesar and the Empire – was now being leveled against Paul and Silas. They were accusing them of declaring that there was a new king, one called Jesus. They knew that was the way to get Rome’s attention.
Well, after the city officials decided that there was no reason to hold Jason and his companions, they basically made Jason promise that Paul wouldn’t preach anymore… or at least until they were out of office. Paul probably wasn’t happy about having to leave, but he seems to have honored Jason’s promise and left for a season. Of course we know from the two New Testament books, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, that Paul had an extended relationship with them. This doesn’t appear to be his only time there. That’s the first story I wanted to share with you.
We’ll take a look at Story #2 next time.
Grace and Truth,