Reference: Acts 17:1-9
Back Story: Paul’s second missionary journey was about 51-52 AD; however events in the 40’s impacted Paul’s activities in Thessalonica, Greece. In 41 AD, Emperor Claudius wrote a threatening letter to the Alexandrians, saying he would take measures against Jews who were stirring up a universal plague throughout the world. In 44 AD, after Herod Agrippa I’s death public disturbances occurred in Palestine. In 49 AD there were public disturbance in the Jewish community in Rome. Emperor Claudius responded by expelling all Jews from Rome.
Paul, Silas, and Timothy traveled to Thessalonica, the capital the province of Macedonia. Thessalonica was large with a population of about 200,000. Thessalonica had the status of a free city through loyalty to the emperor. Local officials were charged with preserving order and making sure the imperial decrees are respected. The city contained a colony of Jews and a synagogue. Thessalonica was an excellent choice for the spread of the gospel to the entire Balkan Peninsula.
Story Line: Paul proceeded his usual way by preaching first in the local Jewish synagogue. In Thessalonica, he went to the Jewish synagogue on three successive Sabbaths and reasoned with the Jews using Old Testament scripture. Specifically, Paul taught that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah. Jesus suffered, was crucified, and rose from the dead. Some Jews believed in Christ as Messiah based on Paul’s teachings, as did many Greeks and a good number of women. At this time Paul and his fellow missionaries were staying at Jason’s home. Jason is a Greek name so more than likely Jason was a Gentile rather than a Jew.
The Jewish became jealous of Paul’s success. They rounded up “lewd fellows of the baser sort” (Acts 17:5, KJV, 1945). The mob of these fellows assaulted Jason’s home and attempted to bring the missionaries out of the house. When the attackers could not find the missionaries, they dragged Jason and some other (Christian) brothers before the city officials, shouting, “These men who have caused trouble all over the world now have come here, and Jason welcomed them into his house” (Acts 17:6-7, NIV).
Those accusations would have been bad enough in the politically charged environment of the early 50s; however, the accusers said, that the missionaries defied Caesar’s decrees, by claiming that there was another king (called Jesus). Paul’s teaching about Jesus as Messiah was twisted into a future monarch who would displace Caesar. The mob’s charges understandably threw hears and city officials into turmoil.
Because the missionaries couldn’t be found, city officials made Jason and his friends post a financial bond. If Jason didn’t guarantee a peaceful, quiet community, his property would be confiscated and he would probably be killed. That night believers sent Paul and the other missionaries out of Thessalonica. They went to Berea.
Pondering Relationships: Paul and fellow missionaries remained in Thessalonica at most 3-4 weeks and lived with Jason. The Bible provided no additional information about Jason; however, apparently he remained a Christian. Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians commends the church there for becoming imitators of God’s churches in Judea that suffered persecution (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16). Further Paul noted that the Thessalonian believers suffered from their own countrymen, which would have been the Greeks.
Reflection: How in the world did the Thessalonian church survive and thrive after only three weeks of instruction from the missionaries? Can you imagine the depth of the convert’s belief in the risen Christ?
If you are interested in learning more about Lesser Known Bible Characters, check out my book on my website: www.CarolynRothMinistry.com
Copyright September 15, 2016; Carolyn Roth