“When Paul said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.” Acts 20:36-38
This might be one of the more tender passages in Scripture and an intimate glimpse into the Apostle Paul that we don’t often see. Basically, it’s his softer side. Much of the time we follow him on his missionary journeys, teaching and preaching, working miracles, training and rebuking, and planting and shaping the direction of the fledgling church.
Here, however, he is weeping.
Because he loves the people of Ephesus.
Paul spent a handful of years with this congregation; more time than with any other group. He bonded. He grew with them. He was deeply concerned about their well-being, which was evident from the instructions he gave the Ephesian Elders before departing to Jerusalem. He asked them to carefully watch over the congregation, to guard it from ill-motived wolves, and to continue building up the church with the word of grace.
It’s probably similar to a Father giving away his daughter to the boy…I mean man, that she is marrying. With hopefully anticipation, and yet a wave of trepidation, one must trust that the hand-off will be successful.
Will the church/daughter be loved, cared for, and be nurtured?
These are the questions a Father asks, if he has any semblance of a heart. This is what Paul is asking as well. All too often, we miss the heart of Paul because we tend to focus only on his firm corrections and doctrinal challenges. But, this guy has a softer side too.
I like the softer side of Paul. How about you?