This passage starts another pattern which we’ll see in Acts. Through the rest of the book (and really the rest of the N.T.), the Jews tend to be the main opponents of the spread of the Message.
I’d like to take this moment to speak about Anti-Semitism. If you aren’t aware of it, then you should be. The hostility you see here between the Jews and Message of Jesus has been used as an excuse for “Christians” (and I use that term in the loosest possible sense) to persecute Jews, especially in the Middle Ages. It got to the point that Jews actually fled parts of “Christian” Europe to Muslim-held lands because they knew they would be better treated there.
That is a shame. I mean that literally. The fact that Jews at any time in history were persecuted in the name of our Lord is a shame on us which will never be completely erased in this life. It’s a hindrance to sharing the Good News with Jewish people to this day. There’s a reason why Messianic Jews (those who believe in Jesus) don’t call themselves "Christians." That word is forever associated in the minds of too many Jews with pogroms and other acts of hatred towards the Jewish people.
Why did I put the word “Christian” in quotes above? Because I can’t think of anything more antithetical to the Message than a hatred of anyone, especially the Jews. Here are some quick reminders: 1) All of our Bible except for two books (Luke and Acts) were written by Jews, 2) All of the Lord’s apostles were Jewish, 3) The entire first generation of believers was Jewish, 4) In no way are the Jewish people of today responsible for how a small number of people interacted with the early church 2000 years ago, and finally 5) Our Lord could have chosen to take the flesh of any ethnic identity he wanted. He chose to identify himself with the children of Abraham.
Now, it is true that the book of Acts and Paul’s epistles have some pretty harsh things to say about the Jews. It just so happened that the Enemy was able to use this group of people in order to oppose the Good News. But they're the channel through which the Lord has blessed the world over and over and over. And this might be controversial to some, but I believe that God isn’t finished with them yet.
And as for the harsh words with which Paul lambasted them, here are a couple of salient points: 1) This is the same man who said he would give up his own salvation if it meant they could be saved, and 2) As I once read from a Messianic Jew, “If you think Paul is bring rough on the Jews, have you ever read the prophets?” Paul loved his brothers according to the flesh. He wanted them to come to faith in the Messiah like he did.
Enough about Anti-Semitism. I think I’ve made my point for now. I’d like to just examine one more thing about today’s passage. Paul’s enemies weren’t satisfied with driving him out of their city. They followed him around from city to city so that they could oppose him.
Let me let you a little bit into the mind of Satan. He’s not thrilled when you pray. He hates to hear God being worshipped. When believers care for each other and get along, that’s a stench in his nostrils. But when you start sharing the Good News with the lost, that’s when you’ve whacked the hornets’ nest. That’s an explicit assault on--and invasion of--his territory.
My friend, if you’re trying to actually reach out to lost souls and don’t encounter opposition, I’d question your effectiveness. And if you’re encountering bitter opposition which makes no logical sense, then take heart. You just might actually be doing something right.
Lord Jesus, this world seems to be getting more and more hostile to the Truth. Please give me boldness. Please help me to speak the truth in love.