It’s in the early 50s A.D. (about 20 years after the resurrection) and Paul is in Athens with Luke and some of his friends. He’s been walking through the marketplace below the Acropolis talking with people about philosophy and religion.
Paul: (to a guy in a nice toga sipping wine at ‘Epicureans-R-Us’) So, you’re an Epicurean?
Greek 1 (smiling): Yeah, enjoy it while you can, right? We’re the ‘epicenter’ for Epicureans…get it?
Greek 2: It’s better to be stoic and take life as it comes. It’s all the same. Everything is as it should be.
Paul: Hmm. So, you guys are saying Epicurius and Zeno, who lived and died 350 years ago, had more answers than you?
Greek 1: Well, it’s a start.
Greek 2: Lucky folks tend to lean into Epicurius and sufferers tend to lean into Zeno.
Greek 3: It’s just philosophy – we’ve had some real thinkers in Athens over the years, but we worship anything with legs or whatever — we even have an altar to an Unknown God up where the Areopagus meet.
Paul (squinting and looking south): I’d like to see the altar to the Unknown God. Who are the Areopagus? Can we go up?
Guy 3: Sure, the Areopagus are a bunch of philosophers and such who can argue about dirt for days on end.
Paul (hitching up his belt): Let’s go.
They scrambled up to where the Areopagus meet, a little northwest of the Acropolis. It’s an impossible climb from the north, so they circle the huge rocky mount and follow a trail up the south slope. A group of men are sitting near the top arguing about Earth, Wind and Fire.
Paul (clearing his throat; they turn toward him): Anyone know anything about this Unknown God?
Councilman: What would we ‘know’ (air quotes) of the unknown? Are you a Cretan?
Paul: Mmm, no, but I know something about this Unknown God.
Council leader (frowning): Sounds like a contradiction, logically speaking. What do you know about Maurice White or Phillip Bailey?
Paul: Well, disco blows, but EWF managed to dodge the bullet. Still, let me tell you about the god you don’t know. Just hear me out. Once I tell you what I know and who I’ve met, you decide what I don’t know…I’d tell you to read the Bible, but it hasn’t been invented yet — Luke and I are writing, but outside of a letter written by James, Jesus’ brother, there’s nothing in print.
So, Paul stood up among them and spoke (see Acts 17:22-33)
Paul: Athenians! I see you are way religious. For as I walked around and talked with people in the market I heard about your altars of worship — even an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you even worship what you don’t know! This is what I wanna talk about. The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. He’s not served by human hands — as if he needed anything! Rather, he himself gives life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that you would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ So, since we are God’s offspring, we should not think god is like gold or silver or stone—an image of human design and skill. In the past God overlooked such cluelessness, but now he requires all people everywhere to rethink their cluelessness. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man, Jesus, whom he has appointed as a model for life. He has given proof of this by raising him from the dead!
The Areopagus guys exchange looks. Some roll their eyes while others scratch their heads. When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of sneered.
Paul (holding up his hands): I know! All I can say is I’ve talked with his mother and brothers, his disciples and I’ve seen the empty grave. All of Jerusalem knows this story. And finally, HE, came to ME while I was going to Damascus to stomp out his followers. Wait until you hear about Jesus’ love, grace and truth!
Dionysius (an Areopagus member): We want to hear more about this.”
Paul (pointing down the hill to the north): I’ll be in the market all week.
Some of the Areopagus were interested and others scoffed. Paul and his crew left. A woman named Damaris followed him.
Paul did nothing more than talk about what he knew about Jesus. Some believed and some did not. That’s how it all got started in Athens and that’s how new followers get started today, hearing about others experiences with Jesus and his followers.
Tr8: Model Jesus and tell others about it!