Monday, October 09, 2006

Acts 22:30-23:11

As Acts informs us, Paul, having traveled extensively for years, longed to visit Jerusalem again. Once there he continued to speak openly of his faith in Jesus as savior and lord of the Jewish people and all people. Paul’s witness led to many devoting their lives to Jesus. It also resulted in many opposing him. Yet Paul’s deep conviction in the utter worthiness of Jesus to deserve our belief and devotion impelled him to speak no matter the danger or cost.

In today’s passage we have the continuation of a story of such opposition. Some Jewish people from the province of Asia, recognizing Paul at the temple, instigated a riot to kill him. To quell the disturbance, the Roman military commander in Jerusalem intervened and extricated Paul from the crowd. Paul took the occasion to tell the crowd of his conversion to being a follower of Jesus. This led to further disturbance. The Roman commander responded by hauling Paul inside the barracks to flog him. Roman flogging was torturous, even murderous. Flogging preceded Jesus’ crucifixion. The situation looked dire for Paul.

When Paul revealed he was a Roman citizen, the commander halted the flogging. Instead, he put Paul before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council, for interrogation. Paul again took the opportunity to affirm his hope in the resurrection. For Paul this meant first the resurrection of Jesus – God’s vindication of Jesus as savior and lord. Second, it meant Paul’s hope for himself after death. Paul’s continuing witness to Jesus roiled the Sanhedrin and put him at risk of further violence. The military commander hustled Paul back to confinement in the barracks.

What did God do in response? Jesus appeared to Paul under arrest and told him to take courage. As Paul had witnessed to Jesus in Jerusalem, so would he do in Rome! In other words, Jesus did not rescue Paul from opposition and risk. Rather, Jesus promised to stand by Paul no matter the danger or cost.

Some Christians today seem to advertise a Jesus who died to help us succeed in life without really suffering. Paul knew better. He knew Jesus died to reconcile us to God. He knew Jesus deserved our faithful devotion even if it led to suffering and death. By his own faithfulness to God, Jesus taught Paul this. Paul knew better. May God help us and all who profess Jesus to true faithfulness and witness – not to succeed in the world but to live in the only kingdom worthy of true hope.

Gregory Strong

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