We arrived in Athens on a plane from Thessaloniki. Our route was similar to St. Paul’s but instead he’d traveled by boat when he narrowly escaped some angry men after preaching in Thessaloniki.
We traveled today as pilgrims following in Paul’s footsteps and we realized how hard a journey it was for him. He’d left Timothy and Silas behind but was waiting for them to join him in Athens. But the longer he waited, the angrier he got at the city that had become a junkyard of idols, including an "unknown god" (Acts 17:16).
Paul got to know some of the Epicureans and Stoic intellectuals but most dismissed him with sarcasm, accusing him of “blabbering”. But some of them were intrigued and wanted to know more about this man Jesus and his resurrection.
Paul had been talking with people in the streets, but on this day he went up to a quieter place, Mars Hill, and delivered a complete sermon in less than two minutes: (Acts 17: 22-31).
So Paul took his stand in the open space at the Areopagus (Mars Hill) and laid it out for them. “It is plain to see that you Athenians take your religion seriously. When I arrived here the other day, I was fascinated with all the shrines I came across. And then I found one inscribed, to the god nobody knows. I’m here to introduce you to this God so you can worship intelligently, know who you’re dealing with.
“The God who made the world and everything in it, this Master of sky and land, doesn’t live in custom-made shrines or need the human race to run errands for him, as if he couldn’t take care of himself. He makes the creatures; the creatures don’t make him. Starting from scratch, he made the entire human race and made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find him. He doesn’t play hide-and-seek with us. He’s not remote; he’s near. We live and move in him, can’t get away from him! One of your poets said it well: ‘We’re the God-created.’ Well, if we are the God-created, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to think we could hire a sculptor to chisel a god out of stone for us, does it?
“God overlooks it as long as you don’t know any better—but that time is past. The unknown is now known, and he’s calling for a radical life-change. He has set a day when the entire human race will be judged and everything set right. And he has already appointed the judge, confirming him before everyone by raising him from the dead.”
The crowd was split. Some walked off from Paul immediately, some wanted to hear more and some recognized the good news and stuck with Paul, such as Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris.
Today, we stood below Mars Hill as the Rev. Leigh Spruill read Paul's sermon, and I had the same choice. Hearing Paul’s words again, I recognized the good news and am re-committing my life to stick with my known God. We then started climbing the same steps to the top of Mars Hill that Paul walked almost two thousand years ago.
Blessings, my friend,