At the end of Acts, Luke recounts the last series of events in Paul’s life that ultimately lead to his death. Paul had wanted to return to Jerusalem for quite some time but was prevented by the Holy Spirit from returning until Acts 21. Several Godly people had even prophesied about his return concerned not only for his life but the foreknowledge that he would be wrongfully imprisoned. Paul’s response was amazing in vs. 13, “Why all this weeping? You are breaking my heart! I am ready not only to be jailed at Jerusalem but even to die for the sake of the Lord Jesus.”
Stop for a moment and put yourself in his shoes. Just imagine that you have a wonderful ministry and are surrounded by people who love you, care for you, and eagerly desire to learn more about Jesus. Your ministry has reached several key cities and you can see evidence of God’s work in the lives of many people. You have ministered to those who have never heard about Jesus, those who were caught up in false religions, and those who were zealous for Jewish law. You have witnessed change not only in your life but in the lives of thousands of people. For all practical purposes, you are at the peak of your ministry but you heart longs for the people in a city where you have not seen the same level of influence.
Finally you believe God is allowing you to go to this city so you begin to prepare for the journey. But every step of the way brings several people whom you love encouraging you not to go because they fear for your life. These are not people who are easily troubled, rather they are strong in their faith and have regularly demonstrated a gift of prophesy. One of these trusted people is so passionate about the prophesy that he even takes your belt binding his hands and feet in a physical demonstration of what is about to happen. Most likely he did this because the others who spoke to you about their prophesy did not seem to sway your opinion about going to the city, so he upped the ante by providing a visual demonstration.
How would you realistically respond? Would you be so dismissive of the prophesy after a half-dozen or so Godly people warned you and one of them is laying in front of you with bound hands and feet? Or would fear begin to penetrate your heart causing you to question the wisdom of going to this city?
I can honestly say that my faith is not strong enough to respond as Paul did. Hear his words again, “Why all this weeping? You are breaking my heart! I am ready not only to be jailed at Jerusalem but even to die for the sake of the Lord Jesus.” Wow, what a faith, what a commitment, what complete devotion to Jesus not only to live for Him but to be willing to die for Him as well. Paul in this moment knew that his death would not come quickly or without pain and he knew in this moment that his life was about to end as he said good-bye to many of his followers. He knew and he did not waver instead he ask his followers to stop crying for him.
Watching people who love me cry over concern for my safety would cause me to cry as well which is why I’m sure Paul said they were breaking his heart. But to end his statement with such conviction is nothing short of amazing. It is the type of faith to aspire towards, a faith which not only lives for Christ but is willing to die (not an immediate painless death but a prolonged painful death) for Him. That is a picture of complete devotion.