But the Jews who were not persuaded, becoming envious, took some of the evil men from the marketplace, and gathering a mob, set all the city in an uproar and attacked the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too.” (Acts 17:5-6, N.K.J.V.)
The events of our text passage took place in Thessalonica shortly after Paul and Silas began a successful ministry campaign in that city. On three successive Sabbaths, Paul went into Thessalonica’s Jewish synagogue and preached Jesus (Acts 17:1-3). That preaching resulted in a sizable group of citizens (a group that included Jews, devout Greeks, and some of the city’s most prominent women) converting to Christianity (Acts 17:4).
In turn, the Jews who refused to convert went into the city’s marketplace, recruited some evil men as a mob, and riotously marched on the house of Jacob, where Paul and Silas were staying. The intent was to get Paul and Silas out of the house and into the hands of the mob (Acts 17:5). But when Paul and Silas couldn’t be found, the mob settled for bringing Jason and some of his fellow Christians before the rulers of the city. The official charge was that Jason, Paul, Silas, and all the other Christians were committing treason against Rome by saying that Jesus, rather than Caesar, was King (Acts 17:7-8).
It was only after Jason had posted bond that he and the other Christians were allowed to return to their homes (Acts 17:9). Perhaps the agreement was that Jason would lose the bond money if Paul and Silas did not leave town. Whatever the exact details were, Paul and Silas did leave Thessalonica that night and traveled to Berea, which was located about 46 miles southwest (Acts 17:10).
Okay, so there is a lot that I could unpack about this whole story, but the one thought that I want to run with for this post has to do with how those lost Jews described Paul and Silas. They called them “these who have turned the world upside down.” How’s that for a graphic description? It speaks to what a powerful impact the ministries of those two men had wherever they went.
But do you know something? The fact is that every devout Christian lives a life that surely seems “upside down” when contrasted with how lost people live their lives. A.W. Tozer, who was one of the most famous preachers that America has ever produced, did a good job of describing this contrast when he talked about the Christian life being full of paradoxes. He said of the Christian:
He feels supreme love for One whom he has never seen. He talks familiarly every day to Someone he cannot see, expects to go to Heaven on the virtue of Another, empties himself in order that he might be full, admits he is wrong so he can be declared right, goes down in order to get up.
He is strongest when he is weakest, richest when he is poorest and happiest when he feels worst. He dies so he can live, forsakes in order to have, gives away so he can keep, sees the invisible, hears the inaudible and knows that which passeth knowledge.
Let me encourage you to take the time to reread Tozer’s description and linger a while on each part of it. If you are a devout Christian, you should easily find yourself in his words. Even more than that, you should also get some inkling as to why us Christians are so confusing to lost people. They genuinely don’t understand why we live the way we live, talk the way we talk, and act the way we act. To them, we’re not only out of step with the real world but the vertical opposite of it. Actually, the real shame is that enough of us aren’t doing enough for the cause of Christ these days to get our world turned upside down. Considering the way things are going, it really could use a good inverting.