Extraordinary Stories of Ordinary Heroes
Chapter 2 – Jason Stood By Them Acts 17:5-9
by Bob Burridge ©2014
A few years ago a news report told about Edith Rodriguez
Edith came to the emergency room at a Los Angeles County inner-city hospital complaining of severe stomach pain.
She had been to the Martin Luther King Jr. Harbor Hospital at least three times before. A nurse told her she had already been seen, and there is nothing they can do for her. Nobody paid attention to her. Minutes later, the 43-year-old mother of three collapsed on the floor screaming in pain and began vomiting blood. Employees ignored her assuming she had died.
Surveillance cameras showed that Edith was left laying there on the floor. Nurses walked past her. Some even stepped over her body. A janitor was seen cleaning up around her. No one did anything until police were called to cart her away. But they found that she was still alive. By then it was too late. She went into cardiac arrest and died.
Apathy is a deceitful enemy. It doesn’t attack us from outside. It camps out in our own hearts. Fallen humans, even the redeemed, are not perfect yet. Apathy comes very easily. People either do not want to get involved, or they just don’t care enough to be bothered.
However, sometimes God restrains sin in our hearts and moves us to do what is right and good. When this happens we should give thanks to our Living Lord, and humble ourselves before him. His word shows us that our strength comes from the life we have through Jesus Christ. His death in our place removes the guilt of our sins, and restores our fellowship with God. God the Holy Spirit is sent to each believer to enable him, and to encourage him in this struggle. While we rest in the promises our Savior has given, we are told to be doing battle against these moral limits in our souls.
God at times gives us heroes who are used by him to show us what we can accomplish by his enablement. He not only used the great Prophets, Apostles, and Preachers who were gifted with special abilities. He often used ordinary people like ourselves; teens, children, businessmen, widows, wives and husbands.
One of these ordinary heroes was a man called Jason who lived in ancient Thessalonica.
After being cast out of Philippi Paul, Silas and Timothy
traveled throughout Macedonia.
Luke remained in Philippi to work with the new Christian synagogue that had formed there. The three who left came to the town of Thessalonica. It was an important commerce center, and later became a strategic hub for the spread of the gospel.
There they found a Jewish synagogue where they could worship and find fellowship.
2. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures,
3. explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.”
In the synagogue they were able to speak openly with God’s covenant people. This included not only the circumcised Jews, but also some believing Gentiles. It was a place where the curious could also come and hear the word of the gospel.
Paul spent three Sabbaths there reasoning with the people from the Scriptures. He corrected misunderstandings about what God promised concerning the coming of the Messiah. He explained that the Promised Messiah was to suffer to pay for the guilt of his people, then to rise from the dead.
Paul also gave evidence from Scripture that Jesus was that Messiah, the Christ. Jesus was not a revolutionary against Rome as some Jews expected. Also, Paul was not teaching things against the faith of Israel which some accused him of doing. He explained that Jesus fulfilled all the Scriptures promised, just not in the way some expected things to happen.
God richly blessed the work of Paul at Thessalonica.
4. And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women.
Again, as had been in so many other cities they visited, some believed the message. Some of the Jews believed, and a great number of the Gentiles. A few were among the city’s leading women, those who were influential in the community.
God was gathering his people under the banner of Jesus Christ. Jews and Gentiles were now on equal standing in this new administration of God’s Kingdom. Those who believed were persuaded by the Holy Spirit as God used the Apostle’s biblical evidences. Among them was Jason, and likely Aristarchus and Secundus who are mentioned later in Acts 20:4.
Not all the Jews believed the message of the gospel.
5. But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd.
The Jews who didn’t believe turned to persecuting the Apostles. They were jealous of the results and their irrefutable message. They were losing control of the masses because ignorance was being removed, and they couldn’t answer the evidence the Apostles were presenting.
In response to the Apostle’s success they gathered a mob from the market place. They came to the home where the Apostles were reported to be staying. They hoped to find the missionaries and bring them out to be dealt with by the mob.
This is where we meet this man named Jason. Jason is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua. He had opened his home to the Apostles even though it was not a safe thing to do. They had just been beaten up and jailed in Philippi, and to the powerful Jewish leaders they were wanted men. Jason risked personal danger for the sake of supporting the work of God’s kingdom.
This man avoided the temptation of apathy. He did not just sit by and wait for somebody else to offer hospitality. It’s easy to be part of the crowd, to avoid getting involved where it means personal inconvenience. In this case the danger was very real, but Jason opened his home anyway.
When the attackers didn’t find the missionaries
they took it out on Jason and those with him.
6. And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also,
7. and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.”
They did not just talk politely with those who had helped the Christians. Jason and some other believers were forcefully and disgracefully dragged to the authorities, the “Politarchs”. The term for these city rulers in the original Greek text is poli-TAR-chaes (πολιτάρχης).
There’s an interesting side issue here. At one time critics of the Bible pointed to this verse as one of the “mistakes” in the Bible. They said there was no evidence that the term “politarch” was used for city rulers at that time. Therefore they concluded that the Book of Acts could not have been written by Luke. They said it must have been a forgery written at a later time. However, several inscriptions were then found using this term at that time for Macedonian city leaders. The inscriptions show that Thessalonica then had a board of 5 Politarchs (later expanded to 6). Luke was very precise and correct in his use of the word. He used the exact terms in use at that time, proving again that the critics made a classic error. They assumed they had all the information they needed, but they were wrong. It affirms the accuracy of Acts and that it was written during Luke’s time.
The angry Jews made serious and inflammatory charges against the Christians. They said the Christians had upset the world, turning it upside down.
The word for “world” here is not the same one used in passages like “God so loved the world.” The Greek word used here is oi-kou-MEN-ae (οἰκουμένη), which means the world as a community of people. It was often used to describe the proud culture of the Roman Empire. These unbelieving Jews enjoyed being an influential part of the culture as it was then.
Now the Christians were coming in spoiling it all for them with the gospel. Instead of the corrupt Rabbis manipulating the people with threats as if they represented God, the people were learning to look to God’s word. There they found that their teachers were not right.
If Jesus Christ could set men free from their guilt before God, then the corrupt leaders could no longer control the people and their money. So they accused the Christians of being trouble makers and seditious.
Probably those who attacked Paul and the others had heard the news from Philippi about their arrest there. In Philippi the Apostles had cast a demon out of a girl who was being used by her masters for profit. They were accused of upsetting the city and were beaten and jailed. This was the time when God miraculously released Paul and Silas from prison.
Those upset by the gospel were the ones who were violating God’s law and manipulating the Jewish people. Many Rabbis had become corrupted. While they let Roman paganism prosper around them, they would not tolerate these who came saying that God’s Messiah had come.
Satan’s stamp upon prejudice is clear even today when we see all sorts of religions protected, while Christians are harassed for manger scenes, for posting the 10 Commandments, for not accepting abortion and same-gender “marriages”, and for celebrating Christ’s resurrection openly.
Since Jason had housed these Christian missionaries, he was accused of aiding revolutionaries by welcoming them into his home.
Then came the more formal charges:
1st They were accused of acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar.
This was the same general charge made in Philippi but could not be proved. There was no evidence that they broke Roman law, because they didn’t. The only ones violating Roman law were those who beat them violating their rights.
Probably those accusing them knew they did not break the law, but they knew that saying that would prejudice the city against them. By making the charge of sedition they forced a trial by the city council.
2nd They said Jesus was being proclaimed as a rival king to Caesar.
But the Christians said the Jesus was King of his own spiritual kingdom, not of Rome. Jesus made it clear that his kingdom was not of this world. In fact Jesus and the Apostles were against the violent overthrow of Rome. It was the Jews who were actually wanting to revolt against Caesar. They eventually did revolt. In 70 AD the Roman armies destroyed the city of Jerusalem along with the corrupted Temple.
The word translated as “king”, Basileus (βασιλεύς), was one of the terms used for the Emperor. They twisted the words of the Christians in a way never intended. They misrepresented the gospel to stir up prejudice and to fire up the mob.
The charges were plainly false. But it was the accusations, not the facts, that caused the uproar.
8. And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things.
So Jason and the Christians with him were dragged before the city rulers. This might have been what Paul referred to when he later wrote to them in 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16:
For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved — so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But God’s wrath has come upon them at last!
Acts 17:9, And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.
The Politarchs were cautious. They did not repeat the mistake of those in Philippi. They acted with more legal restraint. Jason and the others gave the council assurance that there would be no sedition against Rome. Usually that meant paying a fine or putting up a bond of some kind as security. They would risk losing property or their money if they failed to stay within the law and show fidelity to Rome and the Emperor. But they never intended to violate the law anyway.
The action of the Politarchs probably disappointed the Jews who brought the mob. They really wanted to find a way to silence the message about Christ, and have the Apostles severely punished.
Justice was never the goal of the Jews. They often violated the decrees of Caesar. They stirred up the mob and brought frivolous charges based upon no evidence. The whole proceeding was contrary to Roman judicial law and their own charters.
But God raised up Jason to use his good sense, and to risk his own possessions to work out an agreement to provide for the continuing of the gospel message.
Jason was evidently well accepted and successful in his community. It would have been easy for him to have kept his distance from the Apostles. He could have been polite and listened to them without opening his home to them. He could have kept his securities safe, and let the Apostles face the leaders alone. He could have been another of those spectator Christians who do all the acceptable things, but avoid whatever would risk what was really the lord of their lives, their own personal peace, power and prosperity.
There are those who often dominate some churches who on the one hand do good things. They read their Bibles, pray, attend church and enjoy the fun and fellowship of the congregation. On the other hand, they won’t risk what’s really important to them. They cling to their time, reputation or possessions as if those things could satisfy by themselves. They won’t be seen standing up for God’s cause beyond what’s convenient and safe. They won’t speak out at work or at school about issues that are clearly biblical. They won’t invite the lost to Christ except in very vague and accommodating ways. They won’t risk giving much of their money through God’s church, thinking they can invest it better themselves.
Partial obedience is not really obedience at all. It’s like when parents tell kids to clean their room before they can go outside, so the kids shove everything under the bed out of sight to be dealt with later. They make it look like they are doing their job so they can get on with what they want. But God sees under the bed, and he knows what’s really at the center of the human heart.
God condemned that self-centered attitude in the book of Haggai. The people withheld the whole tithe only to find that they were not satisfied with what they kept. They never seemed to have enough for themselves.
Jason put his home and his reputation at risk for the One who was truly his Lord. He made sure God’s messengers had a good place to stay while they visited. He even paid some sort of security to satisfy the legal claims against God’s ministers.
Paul and Silas left that night and headed for their next stop, Berea. Their work in Thessalonica had been successful. They finished what they came to do. There was no point in remaining there providing a target for more controversy. Timothy alone remained to work with the new Christian synagogue at Thessalonica.
Does the message of Christ turn the world upside down today?
Most of the main-line denominations have given up the idea that the Bible is fully inspired by God. Most deny the actual virgin birth of Jesus, or that his death is the only way of forgiveness. They openly explain away the miracles in the Bible as just misunderstood natural events. They claim that some Bible teachings are just the personal views of their culturally influenced authors. So they turn the church into just a social help organization. The unbelieving world has little problem with Christians giving out food and money to the poor. You don’t have to give up much or be very brave to be that kind of church-goer.
Other churches are little more than cults that entertain and stimulate the emotions. Those are sort of pitied by the world as naive and relatively harmless. They aren’t considered to be much of a threat.
Though many of this world hate the actual teachings of the Bible, general morality like not stealing, and not murdering are agreeable to almost everybody.
The watered-down religion that calls itself “Christianity” makes the world comfortable in its up-side-down condition, which they see as sufficiently right-side-up.
In contrast, Christianity that comes from the Bible, the whole Bible and nothing but the Bible, can bring out the mob against us. The attack is led by the manipulative hate-mongers of today. God’s truth shows the world that it needs to be set right-side-up again. It’s just that they see the teachings of Scripture as up-side-down. God’s revealed truth is very much hated and maligned by most of the non-christian world.
The real message of the God’s word upsets the world. It causes hatred against Christians and tempts many believers to water-down the message. God isn’t just there to give us what we pray for, and to heal our sicknesses. He’s the Sovereign Lord of all of life, the only Redeemer, and he still punishes evil.
That’s why true Christianity is hated and falsely charged with prejudice and bigotry.
It doesn’t take supernatural powers or miracles
to be a hero of God’s Kingdom.
Jason had no miracle working abilities, or calling as a Prophet, Apostle, or Minister of the Gospel. He was just an obedient Christian.
We need to stand together bravely, willing to face the attacks and dangers of unbelief. We need to let people know the truth about the Bible and what it says, and to sacrificially become part of the expansion of God’s Kingdom by holding out its message to the world.
The world can still be turned up-side-down — one person at a time. It happens as each life is inverted from its self-serving foundation, and made to stand upon the gospel of Christ alone. If one believer reached out and God used him to bring just 2 others to Christ, then if they each did the same, after that’s done for just ten cycles, 2,046 would be gathered into the true church.
The Bible says in Deuteronomy 31:6,
Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.
We need leaders like Paul and Silas. We also need people like Jason — willing to stand up for the Gospel, even at personal risk. Together we can turn the world right-side-up for God’s glory.
Bible quotations are from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.