“And when they heard of the Resurrection of the dead, some mocked—and others said, ‘We will hear you again on this matter’.”
When our best efforts fall short and our words fall on deaf ears, we must still give God thanks and move on.
“A babbling seed-picker.”
That’s really what the “enlightened Epicurian and Stoic philosophers” were calling Paul that day when he shared the Gospel with them at Mars Hill in Athens (v.18). In fact, the real picture is that of a sparrow hopping along the ground, randomly picking up seeds and crumbs.
But, that wasn’t what “stirred up (Grk. ‘paroxuno’—‘to sharpen alongside, exasperate, easily provoke, etc.’) Paul’s spirit within him” (v.16a). He had his Ph.D in Pharisaism. . .had sat at the feet of Gamaliel, the most renown Old Testament teacher of his day. . .and spoke Greek, Latin and Hebrew. So, he definitely wasn’t a country bumpkin or “babbler.”
No, what stirred him up was that “the city was wholly given to idolatry” (v.16b).
Athens was the center of Greek literature, art, architecture and politics. It was also an ancient city, dating back to at least 3,000 B.C. Even today, the ruins of the Partheon—a temple dedicated to the Greek goddess, Athena—sitting atop the Acropolis (“the great central hill”) attests to the city’s past glory.
But, again, it wasn’t Athen’s beauty that stirred up Paul; it was her idolatry.
Everywhere he looked was a statue to this god or that god or another god. Some of them had had their heads knocked off. Yet, when Paul entered the Agora (marketplace) and encountered the philosophers debating the latest philosophy or belief (v.21), he couldn’t resist joining in the verbal jousting.
He began “preaching unto them Jesus and the Resurrection” (v.18c).
Nothing like getting right to the point, is there? Glory!
His message so intrigued them that they brought him to the Areopagus, a hill that lay between the Agora and Acropolis (a hill about 500’ high), so they could hear more of his “strange, new doctrine” (vv.19-20). And, Paul wasted no time in telling them about Jesus, their need to “seek after Him and find in Him their all-in-all” (vv.27-28). He also told them this “unknown God was calling them to repentance and faith, for He’d appointed a Day when He will judge the world in Righteousness” (vv.29-31).
Their response? “Ah, that’s good, Seed-picker. Thanks for sharing with us. We’ll have you share some more another day. Next.”
Patronizing. Condescending. Hard-hearted indifference. No felt-need for God.
Such was their heart-condition. And members of their “tribe” are still among us today. Thank God a couple of Paul’s listeners, Dionyius and Damaris, “clave (like glue) unto him and believed” (v.34). We know nothing else about them and can only hope they continued evangelizing their own. Regardless, there will always be those who care less for us or our message; but, be faithful, Pilgrim: The Lord will continue using you to His Glory. Hallelujah!!
August 26, 2011