A reading, a reflection, and a prayer
Acts 18: 18-28
After staying there for a considerable time, Paul said farewell to the believers and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. At Cenchreae he had his hair cut, for he was under a vow. When they reached Ephesus, he left them there, but first he himself went into the synagogue and had a discussion with the Jews. When they asked him to stay longer, he declined; but on taking leave of them, he said, ‘I will return to you, if God wills.’ Then he set sail from Ephesus. When he had landed at Caesarea, he went up to Jerusalem and greeted the church, and then went down to Antioch. After spending some time there he departed and went from place to place through the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples. Now there came to Ephesus a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria. He was an eloquent man, well-versed in the scriptures. He had been instructed in the Way of the Lord; and he spoke with burning enthusiasm and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue; but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the Way of God to him more accurately. And when he wished to cross over to Achaia, the believers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. On his arrival he greatly helped those who through grace had become believers, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the scriptures that the Messiah is Jesus.
One of the great things about the book of Acts is that its narrative is teeming with incident, rich circumstantial detail and a galaxy of intriguing characters. Through reading its pages, through being immersed in the densely packed storyline we are given the privileged front seat position of experiencing this special time – the emergence of the early church, the beginnings of Christianity! It almost feels as if we are travelling in Dr. Who’s Tardis or donning a virtual reality headset and invited to be part of these unfolding events.
The detail we are given lends a potent sense of authenticity and reality to the happenings being recounted. So, almost as an incidental aside, we read of Paul cutting his hair, having previously let it grow long as part of a temporary Nazarite vow (see Numbers 6: 1-21), possibly in thanksgiving for divine protection during his long stay in Corinth.
Then, without pause, the road trip narrative trundles on to Ephesus – Caesarea – Jerusalem – Antioch. As we follow the journey, with all its richly layered description, we feel as if we are part of a Michael Portillo style travelogue shaped with journalistic accuracy.
Yet when we read Acts we also come to realise that, despite its glorious detail, it is not a mere book of history but rather the Holy Spirit inspired Word of God. So we read this wonderfully crafted picture of how Apollos, with all his insight and potential, is taken under the wing of experienced disciples to deepen and grow as a Christian.
In the same way the wonderful Acts story both grounds us, and elevates us, in our own journey of faith.
We thank you for the gift of your scriptures
for the authentic, real account of the Book of Acts
and the privileged insight that it gives.
We pray that as we read Acts each day in our Daily Devotions
we not only journey alongside the Apostles
but also journey inside to discover more about ourselves
and deepen our own Christian faith.