“As the soldiers were about to take Paul into the barracks, he asked the commander, “May I say something to you?” “Do you speak Greek?” he replied. 38 “Aren’t you the Egyptian who started a revolt and led four thousand terrorists out into the wilderness some time ago?” 39 Paul answered, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no ordinary city. Please let me speak to the people.” 40 After receiving the commander’s permission, Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the crowd. When they were all silent, he said to them in Aramaic[a]:” Acts 21.37-40
Paul took advantage of the situation. He could have allowed himself to be dragged away by the Roman soldiers and interrogated without putting up a fight. But because he was called to evangelize, to preach the good news to the people, he asked for permission to speak to the very people who were persecuting him. And to his benefit, and the will of God, the soldiers allowed him to speak.
At first they thought he was an Egyptian who had led some four thousand terrorists out into the wilderness. But Paul used his background to his advantage tell them he was a Jew from Tarsus of Cilicia (later he would tell them he was a Roman citizen). They asked “do you speak Greek,” because he wanted to address the people. However, Paul spoke to them in Aramaic, a language similar to Hebrew but more personal and colloquial to the people. It was a language Jesus used often, and Paul told the listeners he was not just some rebel rousing foreigner — he was one of them.
This story remind me of Jesus in Mark 9.35. “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.“ In addition, we read in Mark 15.32, where Jesus had compassion on the crowds because they had nothing to eat. Here, Paul, who had within him the Holy Spirit of the Christ, had compassion on the crowds. Like Jesus, he saw they were like sheep without a shepherd. They were spiritually lost, filled with evil, hatred and uninformed. This is why Paul asks to speak to them. So that by speaking to many, some might be saved (1 Corinthians 9.22). As a result, in Acts 22, Paul gives his testimony, hoping to win many to Christ.
God has given us the ability to speak on his behalf. Yesterday, I met a lady who is from Senegal East Africa who speaks four languages and yet, she is waiting tables in a remote cafe in the Louve Museum in Paris. She has been given the gift to speak three more languages than I do but is not using them, as least as far as I could tell, for the sake of building up God’s kingdom.
Paul, on the other hand arguably knew Greek, Hebrew and here he speaks to the people in Aramaic. Paul used these common languages, as well as the language of the Holy Spirit, to speak to the hearts of men and women.
As I travel through France, I am surrounded by dozens of languages everyday. And whereas I am not on a missionary journey, I am called to be a light and a witness to Christ every where I go. I am called to represent Jesus even while on vacation!
“O Lord God, you are good. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for the witness of Paul who evangelized first, and put his bodily safety second. Thank you for the gift of languages and for speaking to the heart of people. Your Spirit speaks directly to the soul, and you reach people no matter what language they speak. I praise you Lord for evidence of your work all around me in Paris — for massive cathedrals built for your glory and for people created in your image who display your likeness. I love you Lord and praise your name. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen