Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 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.” 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. 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. 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, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.
The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds. Then the brothers immediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and Timothy remained there. Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens, and after receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed. – Acts 17:1–15 (ESV)
Everette F. Harrison writes:
Foiled in their attempt to locate the missionaries, who were not there at the time, the crowd decided to vent its displeasure on Jason and a few brethren who were with him, dragging them before the city authorities, the politarchs. Luke’s accuracy in using this terms has been vindicated by the discovery of several inscriptions bearing this technical word, including one on the excavated Vardar gate of the city.
It was scarcely an orderly scene, as charges were shouted before these dignitaries. “These men,” by the position in the sentence, would seem at first to refer to Jason and the others, but the identity is clarified by what follows – Paul and Silas were meant.
Since the allegations are not likely to have been invented by the mob, we must suppose that the real initiators of the charges were the unbelieving Jews. The charge of causing “trouble all over the world” is hyperbole, but it reflects the closeness between Jewish communities in the Dispersion. The first missionary journey had left a deep impression on Asia Minor Jews. This first allegation is somewhat vague, and the second is scarcely more precise, since “Caesar’s decrees” are not spelled out. But the third was obviously intended to be climatic, since it posed a rivalry between Jesus and Caesar. “King” is used here in a universal rather than a local sense. The unbelieving Jews would have liked nothing better than to make trouble for the Nazarenes with the roman authorities. Despite their hatred for Rome in general and of certain worship-hungry emperors in particular, the Jews could point to the fact that sacrifices on behalf of Caesar were regularly offered in the temple at Jerusalem. The politarchs were bound to be concerned with an accusation such as this, just as Pilate had been concerned when a similar charge was raised against Jesus Himself by the Jews.
MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 70
Q. 70. Which is the seventh commandment?
A. The seventh commandment is, Thou shalt not commit adultery.