Last week, we studied our favorite chapter in The Story... The Gentile Pentecost! When Peter visited the Roman centurion, Cornelius, the Spirit was poured out on all flesh; even the Gentiles. Acts chapter 10 is our favorite chapter because, as Gentiles, we, also, get the Holy Spirit. We get to be agents of the kingdom with keys to unlock the gates of hell!
Today, we are going to study another story. Today’s story is not as good as last week’s. I’m sorry. Not every sermon can be the best story ever. Perhaps, today’s story might be in the top 20 stories of the New Testament... Maybe... We’ll see...
This morning’s story is also in the book of Acts... The last chapter in Acts. It is the story of how Paul arrived in Rome.
three months we
set sail in a ship that had wintered in the island, a ship of
Alexandria, with the twin gods as a figurehead. Putting in at
Syracuse, we stayed there for three days. And from there we made a
circuit and arrived at Rhegium. And after one day a south wind sprang
up, and on the second day we came to Puteoli.
(pu tea o lee) There we found brothers and were invited to stay with them for seven days. And so, we came to Rome. And the brothers there, when they heard about us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage.
What do you think? Top Twenty Story in the New Testament? “Seriously? That is hardly a story at all. Paul gets to Rome. Why would that be a Top Twenty Story?”
Perhaps, I need to give a little background of how hard it was for Paul to get to Rome...
In Acts chapter 19 Paul is in the city of Ephesus. It is 56 AD. Paul has been there for 2 years... teaching and preaching and using his keys as an agent to do spectacular “wow” miracles. His work in Ephesus was so successful, it started to hurt the local businesses which supported the worship of the goddess Artemis. It is time to go.
Paul came up with a plan. He is going to take up a collection of money for the famine-stricken Christians in Jerusalem. He is going to take that money to Jerusalem as an offering from the Gentiles to the Jewish Christians. It was a big deal for Paul, Then, he is going to go to Rome, to encourage the Christians in the capital of the Empire.
I suspect Paul was thinking, “A couple of weeks in Macedonia gathering money. Maybe, a couple months in Greece, and then some travel time to Jerusalem, I drop off the contribution to the poor and I’m in Rome a month later; 6 months tops.”
Paul had a plan. But it didn’t quite go as smoothly as he had hoped.
Paul did arrive in Jerusalem a couple of months later. He gives them the money he has collected. But, not long after arriving, Paul is arrested for disturbing the peace and thrown into jail. But from jail...
Acts 23:11 The following night the Lord stood by him and said, "Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome."
Paul is told, by Jesus, he will go to Rome! And, I still suspect, Paul is still thinking, “I’ve been in jail before... I’ll be out soon and off to Rome. Maybe another angel gets me out.” But, Paul sits in jail for over two years.
In frustration, as a Roman citizen, Paul appeals to Caesar... Take me to Rome! Get me out of here!
Acts 25:11-12 “If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar." Then Festus, when he had conferred with his council, answered, "To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go."
But, nothing happens. He sits in jail... even longer. Until finally in...
Acts 27:1 And when it was decided that we should sail for Italy, they delivered Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan Cohort named Julius.
Finally, he was going to Rome. A couple more weeks and he will get there. But no, the trip to Rome was scary. There was a terrible storm. Two weeks of savage storm. There is a shipwreck and a rescue and three more months on the island of Malta.
Then, early in the year 60 AD, almost 4 years after he had decided to go to Rome, Paul is finally getting close to his goal.
I said all that to show you how long it had been and how much trouble it had been and all the grief Paul had suffered to get near his goal. You can appreciate his excitement and relief and nervousness and satisfaction; he was going to get to Rome. No more ships, no more sailors, no more storms, he would walk the rest of the way to Rome. He was getting close to home, I mean Rome.
It makes our story better...
Acts 28:14-15 And so we came to Rome. And the brothers there, when they heard about us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage.
Paul after all the grief and 4 years of hardship... is getting close to Rome!
Does that make this story any higher up your list of favorite stories? “Sorry, I still don’t think it is near the Top Twenty Stories. I may not even remember this story next week?”
Well. Let me tell you about a special Greek word in this story that might move it up the list of your favorite stories.
Apantasis means to come out and meet some dignitary and escort them back into town. Generals returning home from victorious conquests would be apantasised back into the city. It was a way they honored important people who came to their cities. In our culture it would kind of be like meeting someone at the airport with a lot of supporters and a band and a celebration and ticker-tape parade, cheering as they stepped off the plane. It was a way of celebrating someone; of showing they were important enough for you to come out and walk with them back into town.
It is 45 miles to Appius and 33 miles to the Three Taverns. These Christian brothers in Rome honored Paul by walking, some 33 miles some 45 miles and then apantasising Paul back into Rome. Paul’s arrival was celebrated!
Surely, that makes this story go up your list of favorite stories. How would you feel if some Christians walked 90 miles; 45 out and 45 back just to welcome you to Rome? “Paul thanked God and took courage!” Bam!
Top Twenty yet? Come on...
Let’s dig a little deeper.
The Greek word apantasis is found in two other places in our New Testament. The first time is in a parable by Jesus in Matthew 25.
Matthew 25:1-6 Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, “Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.”
The word apantasis is the “meet him.” The wise virgins, who had the oil in their lamps, ran out of the banquet hall to meet the groom and escort him back with celebrations into wedding hall. Apantasis is this going out and bringing someone important back in with celebration! Apantasis is an escort of celebration! You can picture these ten young women dancing the Groom into the church building!
Jesus, the Bridegroom, is celebrated into the wedding banquet with... apantasis! It is an amazing word!
The other time apantasis is used is in...
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
When Jesus comes again, those who have already died, who are resting in Christ, will wake up to come back with Jesus. Those who are still alive on earth, will apanstasis up into the atmosphere to celebrate Jesus’s return to earth! If we heard the trumpet right now... we would rise to meet Jesus in the air to escort Jesus’s return to the earth!
Way back in 51 AD, before Paul had decided to go to Rome, while Paul was in Corinth, he wrote this passage in 1 Thessalonians. What is interesting is that Luke, who wrote our story in the last chapter of Acts, was there with Paul in Corinth. I can’t be sure, but I suspect, Luke was listening as Paul chose the word apantasis in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. Then, many years later when Luke writes Acts 28:15 he chooses apantasis to talk about Paul entering Rome! I do not believe it was a coincident that Luke used this same rare word in the same way Paul did.
Luke is making an amazing point in our Top Twenty Story! Jesus is coming again, like the ten girls escorting the groom into the wedding, like the guys who walked 45 miles to greet Paul into Rome. Jesus is returning to this earth and those who still alive will go up to meet/apantasis Jesus in the air and then return with him to this earth in celebration; where they will always be with him! Wow!
Luke wants us to make the connection. Just like Paul was celebrated into the city of Rome, so we will celebrate Jesus as he returns to the restored earth!
Come on Top Twenty?
It gets even better...
You know the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts are Part 1 and 2 of the same volume. Written by Paul’s companion Luke.
Luke begins his Gospel in chapter 2 with a decree from Rome.
Luke 2:1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.
The decree comes to a young couple in Judea who travel to Bethlehem where Jesus is born. Jesus grows up... Jesus teaches... Jesus performs miracles... Jesus begins the restoration. Jesus dies and is resurrected.
Then Jesus ascends to the right hand of God
Luke 24:50-53 Then he led them out as far as Bethany and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy and were continually in the temple blessing God.
Luke begins the book of Acts with...
Acts 1:8-11 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes and said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven."
With the decree returning to Rome. Where the Gospel continues to go to the end of the earth!
Acts 28:28-31 “Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen." He lived there two whole years (in Rome) at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.
When the message has fully gone to the ends of the earth... Jesus will return like he left and those alive will do like the guys who apantasis Paul into Rome!
What do you think? Maybe, Top Twenty?
Top Twenty or not...here is the point. Jesus is going to return to this earth someday! We want apantasis his return!
August 19, 2018
Los Alamos Church of Christ