Monday, February 13, 2012

February 13 - Prisca and Aquila, Martyrs, Husband and Wife, Theologians

Claudius had delivered an edict to be obeyed under penalty of death: all Jews must leave Rome. This meant that those of Jewish blood were forced to leave not the Roman Empire but the portion of the Empire known as "Rome." Prisca and Aquila--a Jewish couple--had conflicting emotions about it. In one sense, they had been expecting something like this for a while. It was clear that the Romans were becoming increasingly annoyed and frustrated by the Jews who didn't seem to want the pax romana they offered. The most opposed of the Jews plunged daggers into the backs of Roman soldiers and officials and the most cooperative were still less than happy to have them there. So, it wasn't surprising that the Romans would do something so rash yet it must have been surprising suddenly to be evicted not only from your home but from your city, region, and nation. They gathered up what they could carry and took enough to restart their business--making tents--and traveled to Corinth in Greece. There, they tried to start over.

We're not sure if it was before or after Paul's arrival in Corinth that Prisca and Aquila were converted but it is certain that they were involved in his ministry in Corinth regardless of when they vowed to follow after their crucified Lord. The three of them shared a profession and worked together so that they might find stability again.The preaching of Paul was infectious and soon they found themselves encourage and invigorated in their faith. Paul even lived with them for nearly eighteen months. Paul had decided to move on to Syria--to continue to preach the Gospel and found churches--and Prisca and Aquila went with him. Along the way, they stopped in Ephesus and when Paul moved on from there, they remained behind as pillars of the Church community. Often, the services would take place in their own home. They were leaders and foundational members of the Church in Ephesus. In fact, when Apollos was preaching an incomplete Gospel--he only knew about John's baptism--they took him aside and tutored him in Christian theology. In this way, they were committed to the health of the Body of Christ and were willing to spend their time and attention building up fellow believers in a world that was increasingly less accommodating for Christians--even Christians who were successful business people.

Prisca and Aquila moved back to Rome through Corinth once the ban was lifted and were known as encouragers along the way. At some point, they saved Paul's life by risking their own. This couple was united behind one cause: a Gospel that proclaimed life even at great risk and cost. After they had been returned to Rome they were victimized by the Empire. Their possessions were seized, they were beaten severely and humiliated, and finally they were beheaded. Though they had hoped to return to their home from far away, they had changed much in their travels.Their faith was a vibrant and surprising thing that led them to work alongside Paul to do great things in a rapidly expanding world. They were instrumental in the founding of the Church at both Corinth and Ephesus and although those congregations had challenges, the communities were also pillars of the Body of Christ for many years.

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