Paul and the Whirlwind in Acts

When I think of imitation of Christ in Acts, the first picture that usually comes to mind is that of Stephen in chapter 7. Today, however, it’s Paul in chapters 21–22.

In Acts 21:10–14, a prophet warns Paul that in Jerusalem he will be bound and treated severely. His friends begin weeping and begging him not to go. The scene echoes Peter taking Jesus aside and telling him there is no way he would suffer in Jerusalem. Paul’s response is similar to Jesus’: “What are you doing crying and breaking my heart?! I’m ready to go and die.”

On Paul goes to Jerusalem, and there, later in the chapter, an angry mob assaults him and beats him. When the authorities take hold of him and try to sort out the chaos — à la the episode with Jesus and Pilate in the passion narratives — the crowd cries out, “Kill him!” (αἶρε αὐτόν). Toward the end of Acts 22, they shout, “Rid the earth of such a person.” (αἶρε ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς τὸν τοιοῦτον.) Here, the NIV footnotes point to the parallel scenario and language in Luke 23:18 (αἶρε τοῦτον) and John 19:15 (ἆρον ἆρον, σταύρωσον αὐτόν).

Neither Paul nor Stephen are the heroes in Acts. It’s the Spirit of Christ. They are all just caught up in the whirlwind that touched down in chapter 2.