Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Acts, Chapter 16: Holy earthquakes of convenience

Paul comes to Lystra, where he meets Timothy, a young disciple of mixed heritage: Jewish and Greek. Paul wants to take him along, but first gets him circumcised, which is somehow supposed to make the Jews like him more? Well, it works, so I guess having his foreskin cut off as an adult was worth it.

They decide to go into Asia, but the holy spirit forbids it. Asia here means a part of modern-day Turkey. They try to cross over the Bosphorus into Bithynia, but the spirit is adamant. So instead they stay in Troas, in the east of Turkey.

One night, Paul has a dream that a man from Macedonia asks him to come there. According to Google Maps, it's about a 500-km drive on modern roads, no biggie. Shouldn't take them more than the day or so they claim it takes. On the sabbath, they go down to the river and start chatting up the women collecting water there. One of them is called Lydia, and she's a seller of purple (v. 14) and a believer. Her ardor only increases when she speaks to Paul. He baptises her and she asks them to stay at her house.

Later, while they're praying, they meet a woman possessed by a spirit of divination (v. 16), who is very profitable for her handlers. She starts following them, shouting These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation (v. 17) until Paul gets tired of it and exorcises the demon. This causes the leaders of the divination cartel to arrest Paul and Silas and take them to the magistrates, claiming they're a nuisance. The magistrates strip them and beat them and throw them into the stocks, but, undaunted, our two intrepid disciples keep pissing off the whole town, praying and singing and annoying the other prisoners until even god is fed up and destroys the prison with an earthquake.

The warden wakes up and sees all the cell doors open and makes to kill himself with a sword, but Paul calls out Do thyself no harm: for we are all here (v. 28). He converts immediately and he and his family are all baptised that very night.

The next day, word comes to let Paul and Silas go, but Paul refuses to leave until they come and let him go personally. So they do, and also beg them to just go on their way and leave them in peace. After saying goodbye to Lydia, they depart.

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