Chapter seventeen continues the second missionary tour. It seems that Luke and Timothy stayed at Philippi while Paul and Silas walked the 100 miles to Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-9). Unlike Philippi, Thessalonica was big enough for a synagogue, and Luke noted that the apostles spent three Sabbaths there. Overall, they were probably in Thessalonica for a couple of months, because they also spent time in at least one home teaching the Gentiles as well. There was a great response from the Gentiles and a few of the Jews. This time it was unbelieving Jews who dragged Paul’s host, Jason, to the magistrates, charging him with treason against Rome. The magistrates, however, saw that this was a religious argument, not a political one, and let him off with only a fine. In order to not cause more trouble, the fledgling church sent Paul and Silas to Berea, about 50 miles away. Timothy may have joined them by this point and stayed to minister on Paul’s behalf in Thessalonica.
The Jews in Berea were more attentive than in Thessalonica, so they responded favorably to Paul along with many Gentiles (Acts 17:10-15). However, the unbelieving Jews from Thessalonica made the trip to harass them in Berea as well, so Paul left for Athens, leaving Silas and Timothy behind to serve the new Macedonian churches.
Although Paul received a hearing from some of the great philosophers and thinkers of the day in Athens (Acts 17:16-34), the response there was very weak. Paul had capitalized on the void in their religion, proclaiming to know the highest of gods, the creator of all things. It seems they were polite and attentive until he came to the message of Jesus’ resurrection of Jesus. At that point, most just scoffed and stopped listening, though a few believed.