Home > Journeys to Metropoli > Paul’s Journey to Jerusarome (OH! Clever title…)*

Paul’s Journey to Jerusarome (OH! Clever title…)*

I’m lazy.

If you don’t read this, the following will be less clear.

Jesus blessed the Jews by his bodily presence and through bringing the full force of the kingdom of God to the epicenter of Judaism. But this not where he stopped. Because after he ascended into heaven, he came back at Pentecost and infused his spirit into the body of believers. Then, the believers become markedly like Jesus: preaching the same message, performing similar healings, having similar conflict with authorities, casting out demons, and Jesus is seen to be doing in spirit form through the disciples essentially what he was doing in his body.

If you want, compare a few passages from Luke part 1 and Luke part 2 (Acts) to see what I mean. Luke 3:21-23/Acts 2:1-13 ; Luke 7:1-10/Acts 10:1-11:18 ; Luke 7:11-17/Acts 9:36-43 ; Luke 5:17-26/Acts 9:32-35 ; Luke 22:66-71/Acts 6:8-15, 7:56 ; Luke 4:40-41, 6:17-19 ; Acts 5:12-16.** These events are not the same, but they are similar. The vast number of similar-type events between Luke part 1 and part 2 at least demonstrates that something significant is going on here. I submit to you that Luke frequently utilizes events in Luke part 2 that resemble events in part 1 as narrative prompts for readers to recall the meanings and implications of the events in part 1 to help the reader interpret the meaning of events in part 2.

Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem was the climax of Luke part 1. In Luke part 2 (Acts), our deliberate author tells about the journey of another character, who is full of the Spirit of Jesus, and his journey to Jerusalem and then to Rome.
Luke does a very similar thing with Paul’s journey to Jerusalem that he did with Jesus’. He consistently reminds his readers as Paul is journeying from city to city that Paul is going to end up in Jerusalem. Although in the end Paul goes to Rome and dies in Rome and the reader already knows he is going there, Luke typically only mentions Paul’s journey to Jerusalem. I believe this is so the reminders have a dual function, to emphasize the importance of going to Jerusalem and to draw out the likeness of Paul’s journey to Jesus’.

When Luke first mentions Paul’s destiny-driven journey to Rome, he describes it similarly to the start of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. Acts 19:21 says, “Paul resolved to go to Jerusalem… He said, ‘ After I have been there, I must also see Rome.'” Luke 9:51 says that Jesus “resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” The words “resolved” and “resolutely” are both used in the translations instead of the Greek idioms that Luke used to describe the resolution and determination with which both men went to Jerusalem. After this Acts passage, Luke reiterates throughout Luke 20 and 21 that Paul is going to Jerusalem.

In Luke part 1, the author reminds his readers of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem and what that meant for the Jewish people in terms of its fulfillment of Messianic prophecy, blessing the Hebrews by bringing the kingdom of God to the core of Judaism. In Acts (Luke part 2), the author also regularly reminds his readers of Paul’s journey to Jerusalem (and then to Rome). Why is he doing this when he talks about Paul’s Roman Holiday? Excellent question Jeremiah. Paul’s journey to Jerusalem/Rome has a similar theological function as Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. Woah?

Paul also seems to have similar expectations of the outcome of his trip to Jerusalem. In Acts 20:22-24 Paul says, “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there… in every city… prison and hardships are facing me… However, I consider my life worth nothing to me…” Here Paul is implying that he suspects some terrible things are awaiting in Jerusalem, he even hints at death.

Later, Paul’s friends through the Spirit affirm what is going down in Jerusalem. A prophet tied his own hands and feet together with Paul’s belt to illustrate the Spirit’s message to Paul, “‘In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles'” (Acts 20:11). Like anyone else who was handed over to the Gentiles? Paul’s response, “I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:13). Jesus and Paul have a strikingly similar readiness for the die for the sake of the good news of Jesus Christ, and both appear to have this idea that going to Jerusalem is movement toward their own death.

Perhaps you recall, Luke frequently utilizes events in Luke part 2 that resemble events in part 1 as narrative prompts for readers to recall the meanings and implications of the events in part 1 to help the reader interpret the events in part 2. Paul enters Jerusalem on a good note (21:7), just as Jesus did, but things heat up from there. Paul is taken out of the temple by a Jewish mob and beaten until the Roman authorities wrest him from the mob (21:30-35), the violence of whom “was so great he had to be carried by the soldiers.” Jesus’ beatings rendered him unable to carry his own cross. Both men ended up with their fate in the hands of the Romans because of the hostility of the Jews. Reminiscent. Similar but different.

How about “almost but not quite”? Paul was, just like Jesus, about to be flogged by the Romans at the directive of Roman authorities, but all of the sudden Paul wasn’t flogged because he was a Roman citizen.*** As a reader we’ve had ourselves set up for this dramatic trip to Jerusalem involving a looming expectation of death and explicit foreshadowing of Paul’s suffering there. We are set up for something much like Jesus’ trip to Jerusalem that we are probably well acquainted with. Just when it looks like it’s about to look like the passion story, it shifts and we’re reminded by this new information of Paul’s Roman citizenship that he told us at the outset his story wasn’t ending in Jerusalem.**** His epic journey to Jerusalem then becomes an epic journey to Rome.

Acts 23:11 is the first time that as a reader we hear God chiming in and making His will crystal clear: “‘Take courage” As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.'” Then Paul goes before a smorgasbord of elite Roman rulers to whom he powerfully and insistently presents the story of Jesus Messiah. He gets sent to Rome to bring his testimony before Caesar. Rome. As Jerusalem was the center of Judaism and Hebrew culture, Rome is the center of the world. It is the hub of all of the peoples of the known world. The story of Acts ends with Paul spending years in this historically, narratively, and theologically significant city “boldly and without hindrance” preaching “the kingdom of God and” teaching “about the Lord Jesus Christ” (28:31).

My contention is that our delightful storyteller under the inspiration of the Spirit of God is deliberately comparing Paul’s journey to Jesus’ because of the similar but different theological implications of their respective journeys. One theologically significant aspect of Jesus’ was to bring the Messianic Kingdom and full presence of YHWH to the Hebrew people. Paul’s journey was to bring the Messianic Kingdom and full presence of YHWH to the people of the world. I believe Paul’s journey was, in the context of the story, the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant from way back in Genesis that Peter reminds us of in an important speech in the beginning of Acts. “He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples of the world will be blessed'” (4: Jesus blessed the Jewish people by bringing them Immanuel, “God with us,” hearkening back to the first part of the Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 12: 2). Paul, only through the Spirit of Jesus, in the climactic event of the book of Acts, fulfilled the second part of the covenant by bringing Immanuel to “all peoples of the world.”


* Please laugh at my absurd parenthetical comment.
**Portions of list are borrowed.
*** Also, Paul went before the Sanhedrin like Jesus and the high priest commanded he be struck, like Jesus was beat while before the Sanhedrin, but Paul was not struck. Almost, not quite.
**** However, Paul’s journey to Jerusalem did result in him going to Rome where he was imprisoned and died. Ultimately Paul’s journey was also one to his own death.

  1. David C. Miller
    June 1, 2010 at 7:42 pm

    I enjoyed this and your previous post on Jesus and his journey to Jerusalem (though the phrase “he came back at Pentecost and infused his spirit into the body of believers” could use some nitpicking along Trinitarian and infused/imputed-grace lines). Or, I could stop overreacting whenever I hear someone use the word ‘infused’.

    One primary difference to note between the journeys of the two men is the reason why they are willing and expecting to suffer once they get to Jerusalem. Jesus is unafraid to go to Jerusalem because it’s where he knows he will complete his work of redemption. Paul is unafraid to go to Jerusalem because, as a result of what Jesus has done, he has been made “more than [a] conqueror”.

  2. June 1, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    Well, Acts does refer to the Spirit using multiple terminologies… Holy Spirit, Spirit of God, and Spirit of Jesus (I believe). It also seems that the oneness of the trinity allows some degree of freedom in many cases to refer to them interchangeably. What do you think? Thanks for not being too harsh on word choice.

    One question(which I guess is my second question), do you think Jesus and Paul are unafraid? I don’t know that they’re not, but I guess I’m not sure that they are either.

  3. David C. Miller
    June 2, 2010 at 7:46 am

    Perhaps they were afraid and their determination overrode it. I don’t mean to suggest that Jesus, Paul, or Christians today are like superheroes, blowing up bridges and jumping out of planes because they’re not afraid anymore.

    My point was that the motivations were different. I give you these imagined dialogues:

    Peter: Nice day, today!
    Jesus: Sure is. Let’s go to Jerusalem.
    Peter: Won’t people try to kill you in Jerusalem?
    Jesus: They sure will. That’s why I’m going. Come on, we’ve been over this.
    Peter: Aren’t you scared?
    Jesus: Not really- for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world.

    …20 years later…

    Barnabas: Nice day, today!
    Paul: Sure is. Let’s go to Jerusalem.
    Barnabas: Won’t people try to kill you in Jerusalem?
    Paul: Maybe, maybe not. That’s not why I’m going. We’ve got to talk about if circumcision is necessary for Gentiles.
    Barnabas: Aren’t you scared?
    Paul: Not really- it’s an honor to suffer for the name of Christ, so if it’s God’s Will that I get beat up or even die, that’s ok. If I’m allowed to go on a third missionary journey hopefully as far west as Spain, that’s ok too. God’s grace is sufficient for me, for his power is made perfect in weakness.

  4. David C. Miller
    June 2, 2010 at 8:18 am

    “It also seems that the oneness of the trinity allows some degree of freedom in many cases to refer to them interchangeably. What do you think?”

    “We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. Who in unity with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified.”

    Or, if you prefer what was put nicely this past Trinity Sunday:

    “And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity;

    Neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance.

    For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit.”

    Sure, the Trinity is a little fuzzy. But that doesn’t mean that Jesus came back at Pentecost, that the Father has spoken through the prophets, or that the Holy Spirit was born of the virgin Mary. Your original point was that Christ was and is the head of the church even after his ascension. Right on. Just be as precise as possible and no preciser.

  5. A friend
    July 10, 2010 at 9:45 am

    I’ve been looking for a way to thank you privately for something, but I can’t DM you on Twitter nor do I see an email address here. So if you’re willing, please message me at y4mmebd02@sneakemail.com. No this isn’t spam. I have a good reason for not wanting to state my business in the open ether.

    God bless you

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