Acts 16.1-10; Psalm 99; John 15.18-21
Paul and Silas became the apostles to Europe when Paul experienced a dream in which a man from Macedonia appeared and appealed to him, “Come across to Macedonia and help us.” Without a moment’s hesitation they booked passage across the Aegean.
But note the events that preceded this decision. “They travelled through Phrygia and the Galatian country, having been told by the Holy Spirit not to preach the word in Asia.” And then: “When they reached the frontier of Mysia they thought to cross it into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them….” These detours and disappointments are recorded tersely, but one can imagine the despondency and even despair that must have accompanied them. It seems the missionaries were being thwarted on every side.
Yet note the positive construction Paul puts on these difficulties. It was the Holy Spirit, he says, who deflected him from Asia (that is, Asia Minor, modern-day Turkey). It was the Spirit of Jesus that prevented him from going north to Bithynia. And when all roads appeared to be blocked, he is addressed in a vision, summoned to a new place that had apparently not previously occurred to him. A new chapter both in his own life and in the history of the Church is opened as Paul is sent to bring the good news even further.