Here in Athens it is clear that following Paul is hard work.
The difficulties faced in travelling by foot (or boat) from Phillipi to Athens is clear, but the work that Paul does/accomplishes is mind boggling.
Following Paul is vastly different from following Jesus.
I have been to Israel on a number of occasions and each time I listen to the stories and I hear Jesus. And each time my faith is renewed and I come away with a new confidence in my reasons for believing.
But this traveling in the footsteps of Paul is way different.
This trip is filled with learning a culture that is different. This trip is filled with learning a history that is new. Why didn’t I pay more attention in World History, I don’t remember learning any of this Greek history. And I am also sure that I don’t know much Roman History either.
Paul is clearly in a foreign land and a foreign culture. So what does he do? You can read about it in Acts 17
16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. 18 A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. 19 Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean.” 21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)
22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.
We stood today in the same place Paul stood – Mars Hill (see the people on the rock?).
Paul stood amongst people more concerned with status … with education … with accomplishments … people more concerned with stuff … oh wait that sounds like us.
And Paul, who is someone just like us – a follower of Jesus, stood out amongst all the people.
And Paul declared the message of the Gospel. Not with a bullhorn. Not with judgement.
The people came to him and asked … and Paul delivered a message of grace and love.
As we follow Paul, we see how big the world is and we are challenged by all that Paul does to change the world with a simple message and life that has been transformed by following Jesus.
That’s why following Paul is so hard.
As we follow after Paul … our faith isn’t confirmed … our faith is challenged.
Has your life been transformed in such a way that others notice?
Have you found a Mars Hill where you can share your story?
I told you following Paul would be a challenge …