As Paul was about to be taken inside, he said to the commander, "May I have a word with you?"
"Do you know Greek?" the commander asked, surprised. "Aren't you the Egyptian who led a rebellion some time ago and took 4,000 members of the Assassins out into the desert?"
"No," Paul replied, "I am a Jew and a citizen of Tarsus in Cilicia, which is an important city. Please, let me talk to these people."
— Acts 21:37-39 NLT
Clearly, the Roman commander did not know Paul's identity or reputation. He had Paul confused with a violent leader of "the Assassins" — probably a group of Jewish rebels with messianic interests, but not associated with Jesus or his disciples. While the commander's assumptions put Paul in a category those Roman soldiers should hate and exterminate, the commander's willingness to let Paul explain (Acts 21:40) directly contrasts with the Jewish mob (Acts 21:36, 22:22). The people in the mob would not let Paul explain or communicate clearly. They were intent on killing him and then sorting out his identity. Paul's Greek was apparently impeccable and not Judean accented Greek — Paul was born and raised in the non-Jewish city of Tarsus in present-day Turkey. The commander's openness to Paul's explanation is one of Luke's subtle ways to emphasize that good-hearted and God-fearing Gentiles were often open to the message of Jesus.*
Father, my heart is led by the Spirit today to remember many missionary friends and servants of the Good News as I contemplate Paul's example. During all of his difficult challenges, despite his hardships, Paul repeatedly prayed for courage and wisdom to proclaim Jesus.** Please bless your servants sharing your message all over the world today. Please bless them with inspiration, insight, and influence, so that even enemies of Jesus can have their hearts captured by your grace. In Jesus' name, and for the sake of his persecuted servants, I pray. Amen.