What happened when I spent too much time on top of the Areopagus in Athens? Read on to find out.
We’ve just got back from a month in Europe and I’ve started to speak on Sunday mornings about three great cities that we visited that were also visited by the Apostle Paul. This morning I talked about Athens, a great city where Paul found a multicultural and multi-faith society at its peak.
The Areopagus is a rocky outcrop that is situated near the Acropolis, the highest point in the city. In this picture you can see the Areopagus in the foreground, looking up to the Acropolis where the Parthenon is undergoing major renovations.
There is an account in the book of Acts about the time that Paul was in Athens and he began walking around the city, taking in the sights and sounds. He got into debate with some philosophers and they invited him back to the Areopagus to explain his philosophy.
As you can see from this picture he could look up to the Temple of Athena Nike, on the far right of the Acropolis where Athena was worshipped as the Goddess of Victory in War and Wisdom, and he noted to the gathered politicians, religious leaders and philosophers that Athens was a very religious city. But he also noted that he had seen an idol set up to an unknown God. He explained that his purpose was to tell people about that God, and proceeded to explain the Gospel of Jesus.
His sermon is recorded in full in Greek on the Areopagus and you can see it there today. But basically it went something like this : The God who made the world doesn’t live in ornate temples like that one up on the hill. The fact is, he inhabits the whole earth, and provides life and breath and everything else we need. He’s created in all people an innate urge to find God and while we may do all sorts of things in order to find God, he’s actually not all that far away, and if we reach out to him, we’ll probably find him. The evidence that God has done all this is in the resurrection of Jesus.
It was a simple, yet profound message, but the listeners found it a bit unsettling and while some people accepted the message and decided to follow Jesus, others expressed their disagreement with what he had to say. Paul was used to that. At least they didn’t start a riot like they had in Thessalonika a few weeks before.
There’s something quite overwhelming about standing on the Areopagus a few thousand years later and realising that this is where Paul stood. To look up at the Acropolis and, apart from the scaffolding, see what Paul saw. To look over the city, and to a large degree, see what Paul saw. But if you stay up there too long you may miss the bus.
That’s what happened to me. I got down from the Areopagus and Robyn and I found that our bus back to the cruise ship had left without us. Fortunately we hooked up with another tour party and they got us down into the city where we rejoined our tour group and found our way back to the ship.
I’m glad Paul didn’t miss the bus.