Chapter 16 is where Paul meets Timothy who later gets ordained a bishop by Paul (2 Tm 1:6). Paul starts with a town called Derbe. It is close to his old stomping grounds where he grew up (Tarsus). It is on the northeast corner of the Mediterranean Sea. He gradually goes west and ends up in Macedonia, which is in the northwest part of Greece.
You will notice some of the information that is given about Timothy; his parents, and that Paul has him circumcised. It sounds strange that he would have this happen since he had just argued about this topic so vehemently. But, it is important for Paul not to cause scandal, so he has Timothy circumcised. That way, the Jewish converts are more willing to listen to Timothy. Timothy is already being prepared to become a bishop.
In the process of getting to Macedonia, Paul and Timothy have to discern God’s will. They go from town to town, only to be prevented from preaching in these places. This shows us that they had to work at listening to God’s still small voice. They understand that the difficulties they came across were God’s way of letting them know that that was not the place for them to go. Evidently, they were not going far enough. They needed to go to Macedonia. Troas was only half the distance Jesus wanted them to go.
Jesus had a specific plan for this man from Macedonia who came to him in a dream. But they cannot get there right away. A woman was converted and she had her whole household baptized. Either she is single or a widow. Slaves may be included into her “household” who are baptized. She is a business woman dealing in purple cloths. She obviously deems Baptism as important. Again, it is the first thing she does, then invites Paul and Timothy to stay at her house. She immediately wants to serve. She has an openness in her heart to do want she can to spread the good news, even if not directly.
When Paul and Timothy move on, they find themselves in a strange situation. There is a slave girl who is known to be “clairvoyant”. Clairvoyant means that she is considered a psychic, telepathic or a visionary. The girl’s owners make a lot of money from her abilities. She starts to follow them around and declares that they will preach salvation to the people. Sounds great, right? But Paul gets annoyed and casts out the evil spirits from her. Sometimes what seems to be good is not really good. She became a distraction from the message. Paul was really good at discerning what is from God and what is not.
Paul and Timothy then get arrested. The slave owners were no longer able to make their money from the girl and so incited the people against them. They were severely beaten, but Paul is not deterred. In fact, they sing songs in the jail cell while the chains held them staked to the ground. Joy in a jail cell after being treated so unjustly? It sounds so backwards, but this is the power of God. God can still give us joy no matter how bad our situation is. They gave themselves so completely that nothing of this world could hold back the love of God.
The beatings and chains brought about the joy. They have been found worthy to truly follow Jesus in suffering. It was an honor. This is the fulfillment of the promise Jesus gave us in the Beatitudes (Mt 5:3-12). Jesus made a promise that He would protect us and that many graces would flow through this promise in the beatitudes. Paul and Timothy truly had faith in these promises and rejoiced in them before Jesus took action. Do you have that kind of faith?