The people of Thessalonica really outdo themselves in trying to stop the gospel from spreading. When we watch the news today, we can remember these folk and feel a little better – this has been going on for centuries.
Paul, Silas and Timothy enter Thessalonica and head for the nearest synagogue. As was Paul’s custom, he would go to the synagogue and argue there that Jesus was the Messiah for whom they had been waiting. Splitting the synagogue, he’d then take the ones who would believe and start his own church. Can you imagine someone actively using this method today? Entering a town, going to the biggest local church around, splitting the congregation and then starting their own sect? They’d be destroyed on social media, and possibly by their church leadership. Yet this is Paul’s method.
The Thessalonicans get upset, hire a bunch of rowdies, and start a riot. Bad form, guys. But next, in the general hubbub, the mob pulls Jason, Paul’s host and sponsor, from his house and takes him to court for aiding and abetting. Paul and company are forced to leave town to protect Jason. The typical supervillian ploy – when you can’t beat the hero, you go after the ones they love.
But we’re still not done. Paul and company move on to Berea and repeat the process. But this time, it’s not the Bereans who rise up against Paul but the same Thessalonians, who have followed Paul for miles just to stop him.
When I hear about the lengths people will go to harass a church, or shut down a ministry, or attack a minister, I think of Paul and the Thessalonians and I don’t feel quite so bad. After all, Jesus promised this kind of persecution and trouble. I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised.