Paul wraps up his excuses for not visiting Rome earlier – he was busy – (and often in trouble, even in jail!) Through a decade of preaching.
When he claims there is no room left for him, or as Peterson puts it, ‘pioneering work’ is done, he sounds to me like those serial homesteaders, always heading west, till as in Albee’s play ‘The Sandbox’, they reach the shore, and lose purpose.
Did he have such a specific sense of call, that he was to be first, to the Gentiles, (I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase?) . I hear something more political here – justifying not heading too soon to Rome, keeping his ’grassroots’ authority. Perhaps he did not want to threaten others – there is that freedom in itinerant ministry, I have found. He’s asking for support to reach Spain – and some will be happy to keep him moving!
Paul echoes his opening appeal to mutuality: that Romans are not just a source of money to him, but also teachers, who can satisfy him, as he satisfies them, that they are on the same side.
As we noted on Sunday, the ‘fruit basket’, as Peterson flippantly refers to it, the collection by the Greeks for Jerusalem, prioritizes mutual aid for the needy – and the way we construe ‘the needy’ shapes our rationale and our response for ‘aid’ in 56CE, or tomorrow. On what basis do ‘we’ give to ‘them’? Solidarity? Common Humanity? Returning earlier favours, like their gift of Torah to the world? Having received spiritually, we give materially? Is their need arising from Roman oppression? Is it civic conflict among Jewish partisans? Paul is silent on the politics.
Who opposes or threatens Paul, how? Who would object to aid for the poor? Roman rulers and collaborators? Temple partisans defending their interests? Revolutionaries feeding on crisis?
Dom Helder Camara, In Recife, Brazil, Used to say: ‘When I give aid to the poor, they say I am a saint - When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist’
From whom might Paul need to be delivered in Judea – who are the ‘unbelievers’? I took a run at that while preaching Sunday about ‘Help’: Who do you expect to ‘help’: God helps those who help themselves? God will provide, for the truly, deserving poor? God helps those who help each other, and God?
In the opening notes for this week, I also argued that this does not mean ‘Jews’, who don’t believe in Jesus, and killed him – that interpretation will give us millennia of genocide!
What prayers or other support can the Romans offer Paul? Their prayers and other responses have to identify the opponents, if Paul is to be delivered from those ‘unbelievers’
Paul closes with a prayer for the Romans – And I will offer you peace, too,
22 That is why I have been hindered so many times from coming to you.
23 But now, no longer having room in these regions and having for considerable years had the desire to come to you,
24whenever I should go to Spain…. For I hope to see you in passing through and to be helped further [on my journey] there by you, if I may first in part be satisfied by you.
25 But now I go to Jerusalem to minister to the saints.
26 For Macedonia and Achaia have decided to make a certain solidarity [offering] for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem.
27 For they have decided and indeed owe it to them; for if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they are obliged to serve them in material things.
28 When I have completed this and sealed this fruit to them, I shall go on by way of you to Spain.
29 And I know that when I come to you I will come with the fullness of the blessing of Christ.
30 I exhort you through our Lord Jesus Christ and through the love of the Spirit to struggle with me in [your] prayers to God on my behalf,
31 in order that I might be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea and [thus] my service might be acceptable to the saints,
32[so] that by the will of God I might come to you with joy.
33 The God of peace be with you all. Amen.
22 And that's why it has taken me so long to finally get around to coming to you.
23 But now that there is no more pioneering work to be done in these parts, and since I have looked forward to seeing you for many years,
24 I'm planning my visit. I'm headed for Spain, and expect to stop off on the way to enjoy a good visit with you, and eventually have you send me off with God's blessing.
25 First, though, I'm going to Jerusalem to deliver a relief offering to the Christians there.
26 The Greeks – all the way from the Macedonians in the north to the Achaians in the south – decided they wanted to take up a collection for the poor among the believers in Jerusalem.
27 They were happy to do this, but it was also their duty. Seeing that they got in on all the spiritual gifts that flowed out of the Jerusalem community so generously, it is only right that they do what they can to relieve their poverty.
28 As soon as I have done this – personally handed over this "fruit basket" – I'm off to Spain, with a stopover with you in Rome.
29 My hope is that my visit with you is going to be one of Christ's more extravagant blessings.
30 I have one request, dear friends: Pray for me. Pray strenuously with and for me – to God the Father, through the power of our Master Jesus, through the love of the Spirit -
31 that I will be delivered from the lions' den of unbelievers in Judea. Pray also that my relief offering to the Jerusalem Christians will be accepted in the spirit in which it is given.
32 Then, God willing, I'll be on my way to you with a light and eager heart, looking forward to being refreshed by your company.
33 God's peace be with all of you. Oh, yes!