27 When the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him, 28 crying out, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against the people and the law and this place. Moreover, he even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.”
29 For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple.
30 Then all the city was stirred up, and the people ran together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and at once the gates were shut. 31 And as they were seeking to kill him, word came to the tribune of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion.
32 He at once took soldiers and centurions and ran down to them. And when they saw the tribune and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.
Remember, it is around Passover and the temple area is PACKED with people. Very close to this time, one historian said there were 250,000 sheep sacrificed on the Passover. Since one sheep is good for 10 people, that would put 2,500,000 people in the area around Jerusalem about this time! That’s the size of Brooklyn! So picture a big city.
As Paul enters town and moves around among the church, it is obvious that he is traveling with Gentiles in his party. When everyone looks at least a little bit ethnically Jewish, his friends from Galatia, Ephesus, Cyprus, etc. are going to stick out.
There are sections of the temple area that are just for Gentiles. Remember how Jesus cleared out all of the animals and money-exchange merchants from this area? The next place in is for Jewish women, then only Jewish men, then Levites, etc.
Of course the accusations are false, because they are trying to arrest Paul for whatever they can. BUT, you can also imagine seeing Paul with some Gentiles, then seeing Paul in the court of Jewish men with some bald guys, and jump to conclusions. It’s good ole confirmation bias.
Then you’ve got the troublemakers shouting “Men of Israel, help!” And you add in some crowd bias (more like hysteria!). What they give away is kind of encouraging. It shows that more people than we thought have heard the message of Jesus. Luke already wrote earlier that “everyone in Asia heard the Gospel” which is a pretty awesome statement. (I know, it’s probably an exaggeration, but still.)
There would be 1,000 Roman soldiers stationed in the temple during this holiday. It’s the 4th of July and Thanksgiving all rapped up together, after all. Rome doesn’t want any revolutions starting on the Jewish Independence day.
You’re not going to see any lightning bolts, plagues, or people struck blind to rescue Paul here. It doesn’t look like much of a miracle, but the soldiers show up and the riot stops. The sign in this area says that if you enter and you’re not a Jewish man, your blood is on your own hands. Sometimes the Romans let the Jewish men execute that plan. This time they didn’t.
For several days, Paul entered this crowded area full of people hostile to him. Today, they finally had enough.
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