17 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” 4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. 5 But the Jews[a] were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. 6 And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, 7 and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” 8 And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. 9 And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.
But, as usual, some Jews became jealous of their success. So they sought a way to silence them. After all, arguing with them was pointless. They had the Holy Spirit on their side.
So they go and find some men who quite simply were trouble makers. They go into the marketplace with these men and start a riot. From there they mob goes to the house of Jason. He was a believer and was providing hospitality to Paul and Silas. Now for some reason Paul and Silas were not there. Either they were engaged in another part of the city or they heard what was happening and moved to avoid the conflict.
Never the less, they take Jason and some other believer to the leading politicians in the city. Then the usual argument continues. Paul and Silas are here to start trouble. They are trying to over throw Ceaser by saying that Jesus is King. Blah, blah, blah. Because the rulers took bail money from Jason and the others, to guarantee that Paul and Silas would leave and never return, it seems that they really didn't believe the argument. They just wanted the mob to go away. FYI - The bail money comes back to bite Paul later (1 Thess. 2: 17 - 18)
10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. 13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds. 14 Then the brothers immediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and Timothy remained there. 15 Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens, and after receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed.
Look at the difference between the responses of Thessalonica and Berea. In Berea the Jews received Pauls word with enthusiasm. Then they researched everything that he said in the Word of God. These Jews allow the Word of God to lead them. In Thessalonica, as in many other places, they allowed their prejudices to lead them to action.
Now some strategy is involved. Paul and Silas split up. They were after Paul anyway. While Paul leaves town, that takes the heat off long enough for Timothy and Silas to continue teaching. Paul and his team go south towards the sea, probably to look for a ship to sail. But for some reason they change course. They might have got wind of a trap waiting for them. So they go to Athens. There they send word back to Silas and Timothy to wrap it up and get the band back together.
I don't know if you realize it, but this happens everyday. For thousands of years, followers of Jesus have been forced into situations where they have had to outsmart those against the Gospel. #1 Thank God that you live in a country that can still preach the good news about Jesus. Pray that it stays that way. #2 Pray for those who are taking a risk to believe. They could use your support.
16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. 18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” 21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.
In Athens, Paul sees the idolatry around him. It angers him that Satan has had his way there for so long. He goes to the synagogue but is concerned that the Gentiles are not given the chance. So he goes into the marketplace where he meets some philosophers. His teachings seem very odd to these philosophers, but they did feel that his teachings was dangerous (even though they called him a babbler or a parasite).
So they take him before the supreme court of Athens. They asked Paul what this new teaching was. The Athenians were a people who loved to hear new ideas. However, their minds were so open that they brains would fall out. They were always looking for something new to believe in, and Paul now has a chance to change their lives.
English Standard Version (ESV)