Monday, October 16, 2006

Acts 26:1-23

Though it may be difficult for us to visualize, we have in today’s reading a scene of political “pomp and circumstance.” Paul had been arrested by the Roman authority in Jerusalem after a near riot to assault him for being a follower of Jesus. Those events set in motion Paul’s eventual transfer, in custody, to Rome. Before the transfer, Roman and Jewish rulers decided to investigate the case personally. Thus entered Festus and Agrippa. Festus was the recently appointed Roman governor of Judea. Agrippa was the Jewish king over parts of the area around the Sea of Galilee. In an audience room appropriate to their social and political standing, Festus and Agrippa, with other high ranking officials and leaders in Caesarea, ordered Paul to defend himself against charges of subversive speech leading to civil disorder.

How did Paul respond? What did he say in defense to save himself? Paul told them about Jesus. He admitted his former opposition to Jesus. He recounted his subsequent conversion to becoming a follower of Jesus. To the Roman governor, the Jewish king, and many others of power and standing, in a city named to honor the emperor, Paul boldly informed them he fervently wished they all would become, like him, followers of Jesus.

This was not hubris. It was conviction. It was conviction based on a personal encounter, not with a memory or an ideal of a rejected and still dead preacher, but with the living Jesus. When Jesus stopped Paul on the road to Damascus, Paul realized the dead blasphemer he had repudiated was in fact the risen Son of God, vindicated by God through resurrection as the living savior and lord of all. The people and realms surrounding Paul in the audience room paled in power and standing compared to the worth of the living Jesus. Paul followed Jesus, not them. They needed to follow Jesus, too, like Paul. This Paul knew and did not fear to proclaim to them. Governor and king, Rome and Caesarea, ultimately did not matter. The kingdom of God did.

May we so truly know and follow the living Jesus that we do not fear to live in the kingdom of God. Amid the pressing but passing claims of power and standing in the world, may we be kingdom residents first and last wherever we live – Caesarea, Rome, or our modern nations and communities. Thus, may we faithfully bear witness to Jesus as savior and lord in all we say and all we do.

Gregory Strong

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