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Kavala is a beautiful city located on the upper end of the Aegean Sea, not that far from the Bulgarian Border. On the day before our tour was to arrive, we had been told that we could not secure our lodgings, and so we had been “bumped up” to a five-star hotel. It was utterly beautiful. The balcony of the room that my wife and I shared looked over onto the Aegean Sea, and we stared in rapture as we looked out onto the ocean on a beautiful day.

But my thoughts were taken up in why we had arrived. The year was somewhere around A.D. 50. At a historic decision at the council of Jerusalem, the Christian leaders had determined that Gentile converts would not be required to submit to circumcision and the many Jewish laws regarding diet and ritual cleansings. This decision made it possible for the gospel to become highly attractive to Gentile world.

Paul had just begun his second missionary journey. His plans were to travel to the North of what is now called the nation of Turkey, or what he would have called the region of Bithynia. According to Luke’s description of the events, “the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go.” We are not told exactly how this prohibition was played out, whether it was a deep inner inclination, or an actual vision, but however it happened, the missionary team led by Paul had been stopped by no less than Jesus Himself.

So they made their way to Troas, a port city on the Aegean. That night, Paul had a vision that has literally changed the history of the world. Greece, as we know it today, was then thought of in terms of Achaia and Macedonia. Achaia was to the south, and included the cities of Athens, and the much larger city of Corinth. Macedonia was to the north. That night, Paul had a vision of a man from Macedonia. The man was urging him, “Come over here and help us.”

And so the missionary team found a ship sailing for Neapolis and got on board. To be clear, Neapolis is now called Kavala, where I was now staying in a five-star hotel. I tried to imagine Paul’s ship settling into harbour, and I tried to imagine when it was that his feet first touched the dry land of Greece. I am also convinced that Paul had no idea how significant that moment was. After all, this was not what he had planned. What is more, the sea voyage from Troas to Neapolis would not have been a very long journey. I don’t know if he fully appreciated the geographical divide between Turkey and Greece, and between the Middle East and Europe. But at that moment, for the first time in history, the gospel of Jesus Christ had touched down on European soil. And as the old adage says, “The rest is history.”

Looking out over the Aegean from Kavala, I thought of the prison that awaited him in Philippi, the riots in both Thessalonica and Berea, and the arrogant mockery in Athens. I thought of the Greek system of the gods, and of a culture that thought idolatry, rampant sexual promiscuity and mythology to be normal, and even healthy. Paul’s intrusion on this ancient culture would be met with stiff resistance.

And yet, Paul had arrived because his King and Commander Jesus Christ had interrupted his plans, and sent him on a mission that would change world history. And as I stared over the Aegean, thinking of God’s interruptions, I found myself profoundly grateful that God had interrupted Paul. For eventually, I, too, would be born, hear the gospel and believe.

And I made a new commitment. Never despise God’s interruptions!

Dr. John Neufeld

Dr. John Neufeld

Dr. John Neufeld is the national Bible teacher at Back to the Bible Canada. He has served as Senior Pastor, church planter, conference speaker and educator, and is known both nationally and internationally for his passion and excellence in expositional preaching and teaching.

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