Andrew Thomson, in a biography of Rutherford said, “The letters flash upon the reader with original thoughts and abound in lofty feeling clothed in the radiant garb of imagination in which there is everything of poetry but the form. Individual sentences that supplied the germ thought of some of the most beautiful spiritual in modern poetry a bundle of myrrh whose ointment and perfume would revive and gladden the hearts of many generations, each letter full of hope and yet of heartbreak, full of tender pathos of the here and the hereafter.”
Well, here’s a portion of a letter Rutherford once wrote that sets a perfect context for our study this coming Sunday, Palm Sunday, 2015.“If God had told me some time ago that He was about to make me happy as I could be in this world, and then had told me that He should begin by crippling me in arm or limb, and removing me from all my usual sources of enjoyment, I should have thought it a very strange mode of accomplishing His purpose. And yet, how is His wisdom manifest even in this! For if you should see a man shut up in a closed room, idolizing a set of lamps and rejoicing in their light, and you wished to make him truly happy, you would begin by blowing out all his lamps, and then throwing open the shutter to let in the light of heaven.” So it is in the life of Paul, and every believer who comes to recognize God’s purpose in suffering. We will see His purpose vividly on display this Sunday as we consider Acts 16:11-24 in a message entitled, “Joy in Identifying with Jesus.”
What we will examine this Sunday is the uncanny parallel between Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem as recorded in John 12:12-19 (and Luke 19) and Paul’s entrance into Philippi. We will look at four key points of similarity as seen in Acts 16, verses 14(b), 15, 17, 18, 20, & 21. Just as Jesus determines to ride into Jerusalem the week of Passover, He compels Paul and Silas to abandon their plans to travel to Bithynia (Acts 16:7) and head to the Roman colony of Philippi. Why does He make these determinations? He makes them for the same reason – that through extensive suffering, spiritual healing will come to those He’s chose to receive it. There is so much here, especially when you consider how much we struggle and chafe against pain and suffering in our lives and the lives of those we love!I confess that so many times I’ve read Acts 16 and focused almost exclusively on the jailhouse incident. It’s a fantastic story of divine grace that we will examine on Easter. But what I’ve so often overlooked is all of the grace that Jesus employs to get Paul and Silas to that city and into that jail. Indeed, what happens in that jail is a direct result of the call, the cry, the command, and the concern we find in Sunday’s text.
In preparation for Sunday’s study you may wish to consider the following:
1. What do you make of Jesus’ decision to interrupt Paul’s plans? (See Acts 16:6-10)
2. Why does Luke (the writer of Acts) emphasize the woman Lydia? What do we know about her?
3. How is the testimony of this young demonized girl similar to that of the crowd in John 12:12-19?
4. How is the action of her owners similar to that of the Pharisees in John 12?
5. What is the foundation of their worry?
6. How is the treatment of Paul and Silas similar to that of Jesus during Holy Week?
7. Do you think Jesus knew all this would happen to Paul and Silas when He altered their course?
8. How long after Paul writes II Cor. 11:24-33 does this Philippian incident occur?
9. How does Paul’s statement in Philippians 3:10 address all his suffering?
10. How is suffering the gateway to true joy?
See you Sunday and then again on Thursday, April 2 for a message entitled “The Joy of the Cross”.