Paul told his believing audience from Ephesus, that they would see him no more (Acts 20:25), for he was committed in his spirit to going to Jerusalem, knowing full well that trouble, perhaps even death awaited him there (Acts 20:22-24). It seems that Luke intends to show in Paul’s life an image of Jesus going to Jerusalem to be rejected and killed (cp. Luke 9:51), and just as Jesus was committed to fulfill the plan of God, so was Paul. Paul conformed himself to the pattern he saw in Jesus, even to the point of betrayal (Acts 21:20-24)! Was it an accident or was it a conspiracy conducted by false brethren (cp. Galatians 2:4; 2Corinthians 11:26)? Luke doesn’t tell us, but leaves the whole matter shrouded in mystery undaunted by our curiosity.
I had always been stuck with Paul’s lack of objection in Acts to do just as he was asked or perhaps told to do (Acts 21:20-24). Taking it all in from the vantage point of Acts 20:22-24 points us to the Scripture: “as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). Although originally pointing to Jesus, our Christ, this Scripture also points to the Body of Christ, and in particular to the one who claimed a desire to fill up what was lacking in the afflictions of (the Body of) Christ (cp. Colossians 1:24). As it was seen in the Prophets and the Law, so it was seen in the Jesus’ life, and as it was seen in the life of Jesus, so it must appear in his body, which is the church (2Timothy 3:12; cp. Matthew 10:22-25).
Paul’s statement that he is ‘innocent of the blood of all men” (Acts 20:26) not only reflects the seriousness of the occasion, but points to Jesus’ innocence of the sins of all men, though he poured out his blood to save all men from the judgment of death. Luke here seems to reflect Paul’s own understanding written down later that he would be ‘poured out as a drink offering’ in the service of our faith (Philippians 2:17; cp. 2Timothy 4:6).
Paul had made himself a pattern for those he drew to Christ (cp. Acts 20:35), and Luke wants us to see that this final pattern, which Paul lays before them in respect to his life, was a template of that of Jesus before his own final journey to Jerusalem which ended in his crucifixion. He asks the believing community to remember (Acts 20:26) how he behaved among them (cp. John 13:15). He told them all they needed to know (Acts 20:27; cp. John 15:15, 17:6-8). He told them what to expect after his departure (Acts 20:29; cp. Matthew 10:16-17 and John 16:2) and how they should behave (Acts 20:28, 31; cp. Mark 13:34-37).
For a three year period Paul says he taught them (Acts 20:31; cp. Luke 4:25 and 13:7-9) with the expectation of their bearing fruit to the Lord, and now he commends them to God for that very purpose (Acts 20:32; cp. John 17:14-21). Paul hadn’t desired anything that was another man’s—neither gold or possessions, but rather had labored with his own hands for his own needs, even supporting some of them who lacked enough (Acts 20:33-34). Showing in this pattern that he was among them as one who served (Luke 22:27).
Finally, when Paul ended his discourse, he knelt with the disciples and prayed (Acts 20:36; cp. John 17), and he departed from them to finish his course at Jerusalem; while they sorrowed mostly at the thought of their never seeing him again (Acts 20:25, 38; cp. John 16:16-22).