Paul went on to Derbe and to Lystra, where there was a disciple named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer; but his father was a Greek. He was well spoken of by the believers in Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him; and he took him and had him circumcised because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. As they went from town to town, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in the faith and increased in numbers daily.
They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. When they had come opposite Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them; so, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.
Cry out with joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Serve the Lord with gladness.
Come before him, singing for joy. (R./)
Know that he, the Lord, is God.
He made us, we belong to him,
we are his people, the sheep of his flock. (R./)
Indeed, how good is the Lord,
eternal his merciful love.
He is faithful from age to age. (R./)
Jesus said to his disciples,
"If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, Servants are not greater than their master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me."
Adversity often featured sharply in Paul's apostolate; and perhaps in ours too. Rejected in one place, he would move on somewhere else; so the gospel moved onward and continued to spread across the Roman Empire. Local conditions threw road-blocks in Paul's way, forcing him to change what he had intended; and Saint Luke offers this explanation, "They were prevented by the Holy Spirit from preaching the message." As it turned out, even resistance, jealousy and splits such as later happened to the church in Corinth, need not spell the end of missionary work. The Gospel spreads within a human setting, despite faulty human judgment and selfish motives, but the mystery of salvation is still being achieved, through imperfect human instruments, by the Holy Spirit.
It may seem odd to us that Paul had Timothy circumcised "because of the Jews of that region." This was soon after the of the Council in Jerusalem that new Christian converts did not need this ritual. In this particular case, Paul felt free to circumcise Timothy out of respect for his Jewish background! This involved some rather sophisticated reasoning, some bargaining with the Jerusalem church, loyalty to principle and yet compromise on non-essentials. Once circumcision was no longer demanded, Paul could persuade his young assistant Timothy to be circumcised, so as not to scandalise the Jews of that region!
Paul (and Luke) perceived their decision to cross the Dardanelles into Europe as God calling them to go to Macedonia. It was a monumental decision, by which Christianity passes into a new continent. Soon the centre of the church will no longer be in Jerusalem but somewhere else. That step was induced by changing circumstances, some petty and insignificant, others more theological and reflective. Paul responded with a combination of stern principle and diplomatic compromise. All the while, he was convinced that he was being led by the Holy Spirit.
Jesus predicted the world's hatred for him and for his followers. The gospels show that he was realistic about the hostility that would come his own way and the way of his followers. Yet, he wanted his followers to relate to the world not on the basis of how the world relates to them but on the basis of how God relates to the world.
When he says, "A servant is not greater than his master," it can be read in two ways. One way is, "if the master experienced hostility so will the servants." The other way is, "if the master washed the feet of the servants, including the one who betrayed him, the servants must do likewise. We must reveal the love of God to others regardless of how they may treat us." That saying of Jesus, "a servant is not greater than his master" gives us much to ponder. It also brings home to us our dependence on the Holy Spirit, if we are to be like the master in every respect.