Bible Jason’s Houseguests

Jason’s Houseguests

a guest blog by Shawn Blythe

We have all experienced the joys and travails of having a houseguest.  Sometimes their departure comes with tears of sorrow that your time together is coming to an end, while other times they are tears of joy for the very same reason.  There are plenty of occasions where Benjamin Franklin’s statement that “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days” seems unfortunately appropriate.

Although pre-dating this statement by a significant number of years, Paul would test this theory several times over his journeys.  From a personal standpoint, it is difficult to know how Paul behaved as a houseguest (e.g. did he leave the towels on the floor?  Did he leave the oil lamp burning even when he wasn’t in the room?)  But his activities would clearly place his hosts in interesting, if not precarious, situations.

After meeting Paul at the Philippi city gate, Lydia persuaded Paul to stay with her (Acts 16).  But it wasn’t long before he was being flogged and thrown into prison.  One earthquake later, he was being escorted out of prison and asked to leave the city.  On their way, Paul and Silas stopped at Lydia’s house where they met with their friends before leaving.  Although Lydia’s spiritual life was unquestionably impacted in a positive way by Paul’s visit, one can imagine some level of relief from a practical standpoint upon his departure.

Aquila and Priscilla had similar excitement when Paul stayed with them in Corinth (Acts 18).  In this case, Paul not only stayed with them – but being fellow tentmakers, also worked with them for a time.  But it wasn’t long before he was arguing in the synagogue and storming out declaring that he was done talking to the Jews and would subsequently only preach to the Gentiles.  Having suitably irritated the Jews, it is not surprising that Paul subsequently found himself in court because of their charges. 

I’m not sure how long Aquila and Priscilla originally had in mind for Paul’s stay, but it appears he stayed with them for at least a year and a half.  It is interesting to wonder if Paul’s activities hurt or helped their tent-making business.  Regardless, it clearly did not negatively impact their personal relationship with Paul as Aquila and Priscilla decided to accompany Paul on the next leg of his journey to Ephesus.

In between these two visits is another brief stay in Thessalonica where he stayed at the home of a man named Jason (Acts 17).  Although there is plenty of supposition about his religious background, nationality, and future role in the church, we only know three things about Jason for certain.  The first is that he had a home with room for guests, and the second was that Paul and Silas were staying there with him.  We will get to the third in a moment.  In typical fashion, Paul was there long enough to create a disturbance sufficient to generate a mob intent on inflicting harm on Paul and Silas.  The visit was impactful enough that there was no secret about where he was staying as the mob immediately headed for Jason’s house to find Paul.

Fortunately for Paul, but unfortunately for Jason, Paul and Silas were not home at the time and therefore the mob took Jason and a few others to the officials as a consolation prize.  Basically, the mob story was “We couldn’t find Paul, but we did find the guy who welcomed him into our town!”  Charges of violating Caesar’s decree were laid and after much turmoil, Jason and others were permitted to post bond and be released.  That evening, under cover of darkness, Paul and Silas were sent away to Berea.

The story of Acts moves ahead to Berea, then Athens and finally to Corinth where we left Paul with Aquila and Priscilla a couple of paragraphs above.  Unfortunately, Jason was still in Thessalonica.  If he felt that Paul’s departure would ease the tension, he was mistaken.  The Thessalonians were irritated enough to chase Paul down in Berea and force his early departure from there as well.  Having successfully pushed Paul out of their immediate area, one can imagine that Jason was perhaps the only one left on whom they could vent their remaining displeasure upon their return.  This leads us to the third thing we know for certain: Paul’s visit created a headache for Jason.

Depending on how you translate Acts 17:9, Jason was either out a sum of money (effectively having paid a fine for his release) or had posted bond and had an upcoming court hearing which could result in further penalties.  The outcome of any such proceedings is not shared with us as Luke’s focus is on Paul rather than Jason.

There are two perspectives to these encounters worth exploring as we likely experience both at various times in our lives.  In the first, we are the primary actors and utilize the assistance of others to achieve our goals.  It is our mission, and we get the equivalent of Luke’s focus.  Our support staff is behind the scenes, perhaps acknowledged briefly, but ultimately confined to the small print.  We shift to our next mission without realizing the continuing impact to the Jason’s of the world.  As we move on to our Berea or Athens, we quickly forget that Jason is still in Thessalonica with a possible court date.

In the other perspective (which is probably more likely), we are the supporting staff to somebody else’s mission.  As the main act pulls out of town, it is easy to look around at the wreckage left behind and wonder if it was worth it.   We look at our sacrifice and compare it to the immediate return on that investment and question the apparent inequity.  What we may fail to consider is how God will use our offering.  Or perhaps even more fundamental is the possibility that it was the offering itself that was most pleasing to God.  The two small copper coins that the widow gave to the temple treasury would bear little tangible return – but it was the offering itself that was noteworthy (Mark 12).

Jason’s offering of hospitality to Paul and Silas at Thessalonica is the main storyline about Jason from the scripture.  But even based on this; it is apparent that Jason had choices to make once Paul left.   He may have attempted to quietly slip back into the good graces of his neighbors, blaming the entire episode on a failure to vet his houseguests sufficiently.  In this scenario, Jason would have been relieved not to have been mentioned in Paul’s two letters back to Thessalonica. 

Alternatively, perhaps he hung a sign on his B&B indicating that “Paul slept here” in order to generate additional business and recoup his financial losses from Paul’s visit.  In this scenario, Jason would have been irritated that Paul didn’t at least give his accommodation a reasonable review in one of the letters. 

Or perhaps Jason focused on praying for guidance and courage in advance of his next appearance in court.  Paul moved on, but Jason had a further opportunity to take a leading role in spreading the gospel in Thessalonica.  In this scenario, Paul is no longer the reference point for Jason – it is now between Jason and God.

We have no way of knowing what Jason did with his opportunity.  But we have full control over the choices we make with ours.  So, if you are a “Paul”, be aware of those who may need to stick around after you have moved on to the next program, project or city.  Be sure they are equipped for the tasks that will remain.  If you are a “Jason”, be alert for the opportunities to serve after the spotlight has shifted elsewhere.  In both cases, we should be aware of the inherent value of serving – regardless of the role.

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