The Acts of the Apostles, widely held to be the second volume of the Gospel writer Luke, describes the activities of the early Church, especially Peter, and the missionary journeys of Paul.
Our passage for today has Paul arriving in Derbe and Lystra five years after founding a community there. He must have been delighted, not only to find a thriving Christian community, but also to find an extremely zealous young man ready to follow Paul on the evangelization trail. He invites Timothy to accompany him on what would be Paul’s second missionary journey. While the early Church had decided at the just concluded Council of Jerusalem that gentile converts to the new religion did not first have to become Jewish before becoming Christian, it appears that, as Paul’s primary mission was to the Jews, he determined that Timothy must be fully Jewish, i.e., circumcised, to ensure the best reception by those communities. Timothy’s father was ‘Greek’ i.e., non-Jewish and his mother was Jewish. As the product of a “mixed marriage” Jews would not have considered Timothy to be Jewish. While Paul himself had advocated for the relaxation of Jewish laws towards gentile converts, he made no such statement regarding Jews. Paul’s decision to have Timothy circumcised would have therefore been controversial. As inter marriage became more prevalent, later rabbinical authority would determine Jewishness was matrilinear, from the mother.
The message they ‘handed on’ traditio: “…the decisions reached by the Apostles and presbyters in Jerusalem” were the messages of orthodox beliefs and observances from the mother church, a message which strengthened and increased followers.
The journey would be guided by the Holy Spirit, also called the Spirit of Jesus, which prevented them from travelling further into Asia, but redirected them to the northwest, Troas, then on to Macedonia, considered the gateway to Europe.
Like many venerated Biblical figures, Paul received exhortation and guidance through dreams. After this vision, the narrative shifts suddenly to the first person, indicating that the previous verses were related to Luke, but he is personally present hereafter.
The Gospel passage has Jesus’ jarring warning to his followers. There are those who know Him and through Him, the One who sent Him, His father. And there are those who hate Him and will also hate His followers. The implication is clear. We have to choose to whom we belong; the world, or the One the world hates. According to Deuteronomy 30:19: “…I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse, therefore, choose life that you and your descendants may live.”