Jews from the province of Asia came to Jerusalem and stirred up the whole city; accusing Paul of turning people away from Moses, from the Law, from the Temple and from God.
Acts 22:30 – “The next day, since the commander wanted to find out exactly why Paul was being accused by the Jews, he released him and ordered the Chief Priests and all the Sanhedrin to assemble. Then he brought Paul and had him stand before them.”
This Roman Commander has just been dragged into something he knows absolutely nothing about and he’s going to be watching closely and listening intently to everything that’s going on around him; trying to make sense out of it and hopefully come up with some kind of solution. He’s not Jewish. He’s not from Jerusalem.
As a Roman citizen, the Commander was raised to believe that Caesar was God. Caesar was the one who determined who lived and who died. But, since coming to Jerusalem, he’s responsible for a people who believe that Jehovah is God, the only true God. Now the whole city is in an uproar because of this man called Paul. Paul believes that Jesus is God and his purpose in life is to honor and glorify Him. None of this makes any sense to him so the Commander tries to get these people to figure it out for themselves
Acts 23: 1-2 “Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, ‘My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.’ At this the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth.”
He just got slapped in the face. What did he do? Instead of turning the other cheek, this Jesus person strikes back with his mouth.
Acts 23:3-5 “Then Paul said to him, ‘God will strike you, you white-washed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the Law, yet you yourself violate the Law by commanding that I be struck!’ Those who were standing near Paul said, ‘You dare to insult the High Priest?’ Paul replied, ‘Brothers, I did not realize that he was the High Priest; for it is written: Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.’”
He’s more than I thought he was. This Roman Jesus person is also human. He’s not perfect. He makes mistakes. He’s a sinner just like the rest of us. But he’s not trying to deny it, excuse it or cover it up. He’s not afraid to admit he’s done something wrong. He’s not too proud or stubborn to ask for forgiveness.
Acts 23: 6-9 Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, ‘My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee. I stand on trial because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead.’ When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees…There was a great uproar, and some of the teachers of the Law who were Pharisees stood up and argued vigorously. ‘We find nothing wrong with this man.’…
The commander knows Paul is a Roman citizen. He’s a Pharisee and he’s a Christian. But the commander is clueless about what Paul has just done here. It would be like me standing up and saying, “I’m on trial because I believe (or don’t believe) in believer’s baptism or predestination or eternal security.” You know what happens when someone does that in a church. A fight breaks out and non-believers can’t figure it out.
Acts 23: 10 The dispute became so violent that the Commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force and bring him into the barracks.” Who are these strange people and why would I want to be like them?
Acts 23:11a – “The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said,” What a precious moment this must have been for Paul. It came at a time when he needed it the most. The Lord led him to Jerusalem. As a result, the Roman army has him in protective custody because the Jews he was hoping to talk to want to tear him to pieces. When we’re feeling alone, confused and frightened, isn’t it great to know the Lord is standing there “near” us? Isn’t it wonderful to hear Him speak to us when we desperately need to hear what He has to say?
Acts 23:11b – “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”
So I’m going to Rome now? What about Jerusalem? Did the Lord send me here to start a riot? It doesn’t matter how things look right now or what people are trying to do to Paul. God said he’s going to testify in Rome; so he’s going to testify in Rome and nothing’s going to stop that or prevent that. Not even this.
Acts 23: 12-13 “The next morning the Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul.”
Fortunately, Paul’s nephew finds out about this plot and he tells Paul about it. Paul tells his nephew to go to the commander and tell him about it. When the Commander finds out that there’s a plan to kill Paul…
Acts 23: 23-24 “Then he (the Commander) called two of his centurions and ordered them, ‘Get ready a detachment of two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen, and two hundred spearmen to go to Caesarea at nine tonight. Provide mounts for Paul so that he may be taken safely to Governor Felix.’”
I can’t let this man die and it’s not just because he’s a Roman citizen. He’s an awful lot more than that. I’ve seen this man make mistakes. I’ve watched him act under pressure. He is not as they say. He is not as I think. He’s not even as he says.
He is as he does. What he does matches what he says to show me who he is. He lives out what he says. He lives as if Jesus is still alive. He lives as if he believes he has eternal life. He has a joy and a hope inside him that nothing or no one can take away.
An entire city is trying to kill him, but there’s no fear in his eyes; no bitterness in his face; no hatred in his voice. Lord willing, we’ll pick this up again next Tuesday. I hope you’ll continue to get In God’s Word with Pastor Buj.